Thinley Namgay 

The two finals the national basketball team won left spectators enthralled if not jittery with the Dragon Warriors  snatching both the semifinal win and the finals in the dying seconds.

If the semifinal win was a buzzer beater, the comeback from Bangladesh in the last quarter, racking 24 points and leading by a point with 11 seconds left, convinced many that the boys threw the game away after a massive lead of 17 points in the third quarter. However, the nine points Bhutan bagged in the final quarter, three in seven seconds, was enough to win the first trophy.

Speaking to Kuensel from Maldives, captain Rinchen Dorji agreed that Bhutan lost a bit of momentum in the fourth quarter. “We kept fighting by encouraging each other to focus and maintain composure,” he said.

Rinchen Dorji said that winning the championship was the biggest achievement for a small country with a population of about 700,000 people.

“It is a testament to what can be achieved with hard work, perseverance and teamwork. A big step forward for the sporting community, especially basketball in our country,” Rinchen Dorji said, adding that it could encourage and motivate all budding athletes.

The game was won in the third quarter with Bhutan leading by nine baskets 53:36 when the quarter ended. Bangladesh came back with aggression, sinking baskets after baskets, drawing fouls, scoring free throws and winning rebounds to the shock of the spectators watching on BBS2 and online sites.

Bhutan could grab only nine points, but it was enough. The difference they made in the third quarter mattered. Dorji Gyeltshen’s three crucial points in the last three seconds  sealed the victory.

Players attributed the win to proper planning of coach Kim Kiyong from South Korea, who had been training the national team for more than 10 years.  Kim Kiyong focused mainly on speed and stamina besides defence through teamwork, according to Rinchen Dorji.

Since the start of the tournament, Bhutan resorted to defending and rebounding tactics, which worked. Other participating countries applauded Bhutan’s robust defence.  In the final, Bhutan could render the opponent’s point guard to be as ineffective as possible by switching to a zone when the opponent was getting used to it, albeit in the last quarter.

With an average height of six feet (ft), the Dragon Warriors stood shoulder to shoulder with the Bangladeshis with an average height of 6.5ft.

The national team, aged between 20 and 35, comprises students, office goers, soldiers, engineers, and  private employees. Captain Rinchen Dorji is not sure whether the same squad could remain for the next few years considering their work nature, job placement, and family obligations.

However, players said the team would continue to work hard hereafter and come even stronger in future international tournaments.

The team will arrive in the capital today.