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ASIAC Basketball: The Making of Superstars

The assembly before March 14th sprouted exciting boys and girls – it was announced that ASIAC Basketball would begin. On Tuesday, March 14, both girls and boys rushed from their classes, changed into their sweat absorbing shirts and rushed towards the two gyms. The people standing outside the Tigers Kiosk were taken by surprise – they’d never seen such a mob rush past. The boys immediately entered the Main Gym where their coaches awaited them, and the girls rushed up to the Auxy gym where their coach awaited them.

After signing in for their commitment, real work began. Firstly, the number of people who arrived was tremendous. Secondly, the types of people were tremendous: there were experienced players, nervous players, screaming players and even players who hadn’t even TOUCHED a basketball! As a coach, I’d be out of my mind about this! To say “we’ve got players who haven’t even dribbled a ball have made the team” to Chennai and Bombay would make them shiver. The first practice consisted of working on layups, jump shots, defending, dribbling and ball handling, as well as stretching those stiff muscles. When players who’ve never done

The first practice consisted of working on layups, jump shots, defending, dribbling and ball handling, as well as stretching those stiff muscles. When players who’ve never played ASIAC B-ball went home that night, they were eager for the next practice – totally doubting the next practice that upcoming Thursday. The next practice that Thursday for girls consisted of the most “exciting” practice of all time: Suicides. “Conditioning” was what coach called it. From then on, the real, REAL work began (I’m emphasizing the second “real” because I mentioned it earlier, and it kinda didn’t work out.) After weeks of tiring but very informational practice, the teams are decided. [Read the post

After weeks of tiring but very informational practice, the teams are decided. [Read the post Investigation: The Case of the ASIAC Dropouts for more information about teams.]

The morning practices then start. They’re held every Tuesday and Thursday morning in the Main Gym, 6:45 to 8 AM. The girls there (approximately 8) work on what they’re NOT good at, and also get a sneak peek on new plays (we’re not introducing new equipment to the playground, no.) From yawns and droopy eyes, the girls come out dripping with sweat and head on to start the day. The teams practice individually. They get to know one another

The teams practice individually. They get to know one another better and make plans for how they’re going to beat every team in the tournament. “Let’s make very serious faces,” said one player. However, there’s still an air of “frenzy and nervousness”. “Even though the teams have been decided, I still have time to change ’em. It’s easy getting on the team – the hardest thing is staying on it,” exclaims Coach. The members, besides the team get stronger, fiercer, more skilled and aggressive than ever. An alternate takes the place of a team member because of an injury, but that’s all. The teams are final. The flight tickets are getting booked. There’s no going back now.

The “conditioning” increases, and it goes up a notch again when the girls teams have to play the “next year’s team” boys. Now, playing with the opposite gender hasn’t been experienced by many, and an experience this was, just… I don’t know. Here goes a description anyways (I’m not going to read this.) The first team of girls got out on the court (was anyone else shivering, or was I the only one?) and approached the boys. We tried to stare them

The first team of girls got out on the court (was anyone else shivering, or was I the only one?) and approached the boys. We tried to stare them down but failed quite badly. The whistle blows, the game begins. I’ll speak from the view of two commentators.

“The game begins. The tip-off goes to the boys, and they set up on their opposing side. Oh! Did you see that? The point guard just shut them down! He’s running and I bet he’s going to-”

“Arnie, you can’t say that! Be respectful, even if it’s the truth!”

“Ugh, Sam, fine. Great effort from the girls, just bad luck. I bet the boys had some fairy dust or something.” Arnie and Sam continue this same commentating until the next quarter.

“Oh Sam, look at that! Didja see that girl shut him DOWN? Oh, now she’s gonna make a shot right there! And that’s a successful shot! Man, have the boys finally shared their fairy dust or what?”

“Hey, uh, Arnie? Um, I’m afraid the fairy dust ain’t working for the girls.”

“Sam, I’ve been busy posting one of their only successful shots of the game! What did ya’ say before th– oh, and the final whistle just blew.”

“Nice try, girls. Better luck next time.”

Unfortunately, the first girls team lost. But they put in great effort, just like Arnie said. They learned a TON about the game, as well as not to treat boys nicely (watch out, boys). The score won’t be mentioned (it was not almost a 20 point difference, what’re you saying?!)

The second girls team however, took the experience of watching and gave the boys a wedgie! (Not literally. That’s just gross!) Here are Arnie and Sam on the commentary:

“And here’s the starting this time. Will the boys shut down the girls again, Sam?”

“Arnie, we ain’t supposed to say that! The whistle blows and-”

“And the girls have got the ball! They race down the court leaving a few boys in banana splits! She’s going to take a shot, oh, it’s a pump fake, she passes it and shoots! It’s a hoop! Man, those boys are goin’ DOWN!”

Practice ends. Everyone’s sweating and tired, but no team went down without a fight. After three conditioning practices (the conditioning had increased), both travel teams were up against girls from Junior Varsity, and Varsity. The ASIAC teams took an open mindset and put in their all. There was quite the difference in height – in some cases it was around 1 1/2 feet, but that didn’t matter. They improved immensely, and although they didn’t win, they completely BAFFLED the JV and Varsity girls. This lifted their spirits, and they started to push themselves even harder, as if running to the end of the Main Gym and back around 28 times wasn’t enough.

It’s the last practice of ASIAC Basketball for 2017. It’s a real last for 8th graders and departing students, as well as the girl’s coach, Mr. Amlani. That practice the girls talk about what they’d be going up against. They discuss tactics, and shout about playing a few of their games on the outside court. After straightening things through and running plays and tactics over for the final time, the girls end with their cheer: “1, 2, 3, Tigers!”

The real journey was just beginning.

The 14 girls awoke early morning with their bags packed and their shoes and jerseys in their hand baggage in case the checked luggage got lost. They arrived at school for a breakfast, met up with the boy’s basketball and swimming teams and left to the airport. After luggage was checked in and passport were safely secured, the girls headed straight for food and drinks to Starbucks and KFC, where the staff couldn’t keep up with the demand. After around half an hour of free time, the girls boarded the flight with a mishap on the way – the Spanglish incident. As the girls were lining up to cross the gate, a woman approached and cut the line. Coach Amlani approached her saying it was wrong, and she reacted by speaking in hindi. Not able to fully understand, he started to speak in Spanish like “Hola, como estás? Bien?” and she ended up in the back of the line.

The flight was loud and exciting. Leftover cups and glasses were scattered everywhere. After a special thanks to the AES by the Captain, the plane landed. After the noisy bus ride to the school, the athletes got down on Mumbai soil, a different smell hitting them – the smell of fish. With a welcome by the staff and an introduction of Lance (the overwhelmed check out manager), an introduction to the resting rooms and tents, it was time to go home with their hosts. After a checkout with Lance, the girls went home with two very important days yet to come.

Credit: ASB Photographers

Friday, May 12. After arriving to the American School of Bombay, the opening ceremony was held where the girls tried to make the impression of “fierce” to the whole school (though was it successful?) After an hour of break, a quick warmup and stretch, the Tigers team (Ga Young, Shaila, Towa, Sarah, Michel, Nora and Maya) were up against the Bombay “A” team ASB. The Tigers dominated the court, showing the other teams the REAL way Basketball is played. The win calmed nerves for the Delhi girls immediately, and so the next matches for team Tigers (vs. Raptors and AISC) and team AES (MinJoo, Su Yeon, Aananya, Menaha, Amya, Anya, Emily) (vs. AISC, ASB and Eagles) were theirs. All games on Friday were complete wins. After a tiring but successful day (but a “different” social of Basketball in slippers), the girls went home after checking out with Lance who was quite overwhelmed, getting ready for the next and final day of competition which would determine the number of trophies the girls would take back home to Delhi. 1/2 the competition done, half to go.

Credit: ASB Photographers

It’s Saturday morning. Both girls teams have a game that determines their seed. Tigers make a thrashing win against Eagles. Team AES, after a few moments of stretching and drills, begin their game at 9:30. After settling in a little late, they come up with a win against Raptors.

Credit: ASB Photographers

Credit: ASB Photographers

Both Delhi girls teams have won all their games: Tigers place seed 1 and AES place seed 2, deciding on points. Seed 1 plays seed 4 (Tigers vs. AISC). Seed 2 plays seed 3 (AES vs. Eagles). Then, the problem takes place. Both matches take place at the same time in different venues, and the Delhi girls have only 1 main coach that they’ve had throughout practicing for the tournament. The coaches from the other teams decided for Coach Amlani, saying he had to coach the Tigers.

AES began their game with Eagles. It took time getting used to no one shouting across the sidelines, to no one pacing back and forth with hands in the air to help the girls. Till the second quarter, AES is confident they’re going into the finals – it’s 5 to nothing. The score increases. In the fourth quarter it’s 5 to 4. The last 7 seconds and AES fouls. It’s a free shot to the Eagles. They shoot. They score. After 4 exhausting quarters, the game is tied 5:5. The game is extended by an extra 7 minutes.

Photo Credit: ASB Photographers

After the extra 7 minutes, the game is still tied. The fouls from team AES are increasing. The extra 7 minutes begin. Team Tigers approach, running from their successful game and their secure spot in the finals to watch their other team. Coach Amlani races, getting into coaching action. The crowd increases. The intensity breaks it’s maximum. The players are sweating and panting, but take a look at their other team for reassurance. The second extra quarter begins. AES makes a basket. 4 minutes left on the clock and the opposing team score, making the game a tie yet again. A player from AES makes her last foul. The referee calls for a sub. She’s been fouled out. The captain of the team has been suspended from the game. The loud “BEEP” calls the end of the 6th quarter.

Team AES huddles in. Girls break out in tears – they never expected this to happen. They won this team the day before. They were sure to win them again today. They huddle in for a “1, 2, 3 Tigers!”, but all that comes out are whispers from exhaustion. Then a player falls to the ground. She’s dehydrated, and the heat has gotten the best of her. The strong post of the team cannot play. 2 players are out. Only 5 are left, and they’re all on the court.

The whistle sounds of the third extra quarter. The remaining 5 girls get on the court. Some wipe the tears from their eyes, they won’t let the heat and pressure defeat them. They will not go down without a fight. Both boys team come to watch on the sidelines. The crowd increases yet again – this is the longest match ever in ASIAC history, and one of the most intense. The team then huddles again. They call for a medic. One of the 5 remaining players is on the ground, intensely dehydrated. Team AES is left to play with their 4 remaining players, against 5.

4 players on the court for team AES against 5. Photo Credit: ASB Photographers

It’s the tip off. AES gets it. They don’t set up. There’s no time. Successful pass, they shoot, but don’t score. Eagles bring it down. AES intercepts the pass, dribbles down. Successful pass, a shot, and it’s a miss. This goes on for 6 excruciating minutes – it’s up to a guard to guard 2 people. Even the suicides they did in practice are no match for this. Eagles get the ball. It’s a successful pass. They shoot.

This photo cannot be made to a larger size because of a change in quality. This picture can also be viewed in the photo album. Photo Credit: ASB Photographers

The crowd screams. The players from Delhi on the sidelines cross their fingers that it doesn’t go in. Team AES looks up at the basket. It cannot go in. They’ve tried so hard, they’ve done so much, they deserve a spot in the finals more than anyone else.

The players from AES gather towards each other in silence. They wrap their arms around each other. Team Tigers swarm around, even the boys get up to congratulate them…

On their effort. With 4 players left on the court against 5, going into 3 extra quarters that lasted almost 8 minutes each. Team AES showed the most heart. They fought even after a player nearly fainted of dehydration, and 2 players were fouled out. Team AES didn’t get a spot in the finals by one shot, but they’ll always be known as the team with the most heart. This match will be recorded in ASIAC history.

“Beat them. You better beat them.” The girls of team AES say to their teammates going into the finals.

45 minutes later, team AES have to fight for 3rd place against AISC – the team they won the day before. 45 minutes of a break is a break time no ASIAC basketball team got. Team AES went overtime too long. Is this enough?

“We’re better than them. Let’s do this!”

Team AES get on the court wearing their black jerseys.

Photo Credit: ASB Photographers

They’re exhausted, but continue to try their hardest. It’s the fourth quarter. It’s tied. With 14 seconds left on the clock, AISC dribble in and shoot. It’s in. AES dribble down, they try to regain their position, but it’s not enough. AES shoots. It’s intercepted. With the rebound, AISC maintain position. The screeching buzzer marks the end of the match. They fought till the end. Team AES huddles:

“We tried harder than any of them.”

“We couldv’e done better, but we learned so much. ASIAC 2017 was amazing.” – Aananya, Point Guard for Team AES

It’s up to team Tigers to win for team AES. And they do.

Team Tigers get on the court with even more determination to win – to win for their school, themselves and their fellow team: AES. With their white jersey on, the tip off begins. Tigers get it. They dribble down the court. With a play and a smart pass, Tigers shoot. They shoot again, and again, and again.

This photo cannot be made to a larger size because of a change in quality. This picture can also be viewed in the photo album. Photo Credit: ASB Photographers

The crowd goes wild. Tigers is destroying them. After 4 very eventful quarters, the buzzer sounds. Screams from the players from Delhi erupt, and they get on the court, embracing their schoolmates.

This photo cannot be made to a larger size because of a change in quality. This picture can also be viewed in the photo album. Photo Credit: ASB Photographers

This photo cannot be made to a larger size because of a change in quality. This picture can also be viewed in the photo album. Photo Credit: ASB Photographers


This ASIAC basketball tournament for the girls was all about heart. It was about trusting your teammates, believing in yourself and your team, and fighting till the end. What both Delhi girls teams showed throughout was pure spirit and determination – they never went down without a fight. This ASIAC basketball was the making of superstars.

“AES is the BEST!”

Photo Credit: ASB Photographers

I’d like to give a shoutout to Coach Amlani. This was his last time coaching ASIAC girl’s basketball, as he’s departing to Shanghai at the end of this school year. Throughout this post I haven’t really highlighted Coach Amlani, but he was the key to our skill, spirit, determination and our basketball.

Coach Amlani was on the sidelines for every match, shouting advice, giving us no time to celebrate after a shot. He was the only coach out of the girls teams in ASIAC who displayed clear care for his players – he was even seriously dehydrated after the end of matches because he hardly ever sat down He’s cared about his players throughout, fighting with the referees or making enemies with rival teams to prove that he’s right. He even offered a pair of glasses to a referee one ASIAC tournament, claiming that he’s see better with them on.

Coach Amlani believes in every single player. He doesn’t put his focus on one “good” player like other coaches. He believes that even a Middle School girl can become the level of an NBA player with the right mindset and practice. He’s gone far beyond what he can for his players, and so it’s really important that I thank him well.

Thanks Coach Amlani, for being the best coach girl’s basketball has ever had.

“Having such an amazing coach is someone who pushes you to the best of your ability – and he’s just that.” – Aananya, Point Guard, Team AES

Link to the photo album of the ASIAC tournament by ASB:

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