Pune basketball’s pick and roll school queens

St Mary’s under-17 team has won it all at city and district level. Now, state domination beckons

Updated: Sep 10, 2018 16:46:32

By Pranav Shahaney

St Mary's under-17 team run a basketball drill at the school courts in Pune. (Shankar Narayan/HT PHOTO)

Pune The St Mary’s High School’s under-17 girls basketball team is on a roll. After winning two tournaments, back- to-back, confidence is sky high as they look to conquer Maharashtra, before heading to the national circuit.

The Zilla Parishad win in the last week of August,set the platform for this talented team that then went to Mumbai to win an Association of ICSE schools tournament, in which ICSE board schools in the state competed.

Calling the shots from the sidelines is former Army havaldar Arun Chopade, who has been at the helm of the basketball training for the girls school since 1992.

The Mary’s side is currently training for the state-level tournament which is set to commence on October and meet HT on a wet, cold morning last week, post training.

Anushka Mantri, captain of the team, says, “The Mumbai tournament helped us connect well with each other which, I think was the most important thing. This is a close-knit group, and for me, it’s probably one of the best teams St. Mary’s has ever seen.”

The team’s point guard, Shamali Angal, adds, “We bonded a lot because we played with our seniors in Mumbai. Long shots is mainly what I do. Everybody supports each other a lot and there are no internal fights between us.”

Angal says her coach has helped her improve her game ever since she took up the sport in high school. “He pushes us a lot. Especially if he finds something lacking in our game, we are made to work doubly hard. He’s also very funny while coaching as he’s always looking to lighten the mood. He also gives us rest whenever he sees us tired which I think helps us play at our best,” says Angal.

St. Mary’s sports prefect Ilisha Chandawarkar who also plays the rebound (centre) position for the under-17 side, says, “My dad played for his team in school and encouraged me to take up the sport. That’s when I started playing and I realised it was something I really enjoyed. I got picked and sir looked at our dribbling, shooting and skills and on the basis of that we were put into two groups – one for players with refined skills and the other for players with potential.”


Shooting guard Chaitalli Bafna then explains how a number of parents travel with the players whenever they’re going out of the city for tournaments to ensure that there’s a homely vibe in the hotel the team is staying.

“Going away from the city to play is always a nice experience and what made it better is that my parents were there as well. A few of the other girls’ parents also came to Mumbai to help us out in case we had any problems, so we never felt homesick or anything,” Bafna says.

The team’s second rebounder Aastha Jain explains, “Basketball is an end-to-end game and is very intense. So it keeps you alert and on your toes at all times. It helps you improve your concentration, ensures you remain fit and also increases teamwork, which I think is a very important thing.”

Principal speaks

“I am extremely proud of what the girls have achieved. This has been a very solid team and over the years, they’ve worked with each other. That is why they are now able to up their level and participate in such prestigious tournaments. My message to them is that they need to set aside a certain amount of time every day for their studies as it is very difficult to juggle their academics along with sports.St Mary’s, despite being known for its academics, has a number of good sporting teams as well. I’m glad and hope this continues and they continue doing our school proud. I would also like to give due credit to Chopade for doing an unbelievable job with our basketball teams.”

- Sujata Mallic Kumar, principal, St Mary’s high school, girls

St Mary’s high school, girls; under-17, basketball

- Beat Dastur 42-41 in ZP final in August 2018

- Tournament run by Association of ICSE schools of Maharashtra, beat Bishop’s Girls, Kalyani Nagar, 31-13

Past glory

U-17 won state championship in 2014

U-14 team won state state championship in 2016

First Published: Sep 10, 2018 16:30:22


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