Bhutan’s National Basketball Team makes history

The Five-Nation Championship held in the Maldives saw Bhutan’s Senior Men’s National Basketball Team exhibit the finest teamwork and spirit throughout the tournament. 

The team members Rinchen Dorji (Captain), Tashi Tendhar, Dendurp Wangchuk, Sonam Drukpa, Jigme Younten, Sonam Tshering Jattu, Rabgay, Tsheltrum Gyeltshen, Phub Gyeltshen, Khenrab Jamtsho and Ugyen Klezang. Head Coach Kim, Assistance Coaches Tshering Lhaden and Nima Gyeltshen travelled to the Maldives on 14 June 2023.

The tournament was held in Male City Youth Center Indoor Hall, the Maldives from 14 to 22 June.

On 14 June, Bhutan faced Nepal in its first match, and won with a score of 61 – 55.

In the match between Bangladesh and the Maldives, it was Bangladesh who defeated Maldives with the score at 52-42.

Bhutan’s basketball team continued its winning streak by winning the second match with the Maldives 60-50 on 15 June. The Man of the Match was awarded to Phub Gyeltshen.

Hope was high that Bhutan will reach the final match of the championship tournament, as Bhutan was the only team to beat Nepal in the league in the opening match.

On the same day, there was a match between Pakistan and Nepal, where Pakistan was defeated by Nepal 62-66.

16 June saw the match between Bhutan and Bangladesh, where Bhutan lost to Bangladesh 61-51. Similarly, the Maldives lost to Pakistan 65-63.

On 17 June Bhutan faced Pakistan, where Bhutan lost to Pakistan 73-53. Similarly, Bangladesh lost to Nepal 61-90. 

On 18 June there was a match between Pakistan and Bangladesh, where Pakistan won the match 84-66. On the same day, Nepal won the match over the Maldives 75-68.

Bhutan and Nepal entered the semi-final game of the Five-Nation Basketball Championship on 20 June. The teams were locked in from tipoff till the end of the fourth quarter. They never backed down and gave it their all. Bhutan team defeated the Nepal team with just one point, 61-60. Similarly, Pakistan lost to Bangladesh 65-79.

Sonam Tshering Jattu’s buzzer-beating three pointer sent Bhutan to the finals of the Five-Nation Basketball Championship 2023.

On reaching the final match, the Assistant Coach Tshering Lhaden had said, “The team is very excited and happy, having come this far. No one really expected Bhutan to even qualify for the knockout round, but to now reach the finals has been a dream come true for the team and the management.”

She added, “We have a few players who have played in earlier international competitions, but most of the players are making their debut in this tournament. Players are very excited and motivated with all the support the team has been receiving.”

Bhutan had participated in earlier international completion such as the South Asian Games and the South Asian Basketball Association tournaments.

The fans and well-wishers took to the social media to offer their best wishes and ardent support for the team.

All Bhutanese at home and abroad waited excitedly for the final game between Bhutan and Bangladesh.

On 22 June, Bhutan and Bangladesh played the final match of the championship tournament. This was the first time in history that Bhutan reached the finals in an international competition.

Some Bhutanese people working in the Maldives came to support the country’s team by holding a flag to represent the country.

The final match saw rough play in the first quarter, where Bhutan led by 15-13. The second quarter score stood at 21-29. Bhutan had a comfortable lead 36-53 in the third quarter due to a fast paced game by Bhutan where both attack and defense was good. A large number of fouls by Bhutan gave away many points to Bangladesh.

The last quarter was all Bangladesh who were aggressive on the offense from start to finish. However, Bhutan held its nerve and the last seconds of the fourth quarter belonged to Bhutan. Dorji’s final score at 00.01 second and a free shot ensured the win for Bhutan with the final score at 60-62 in the Five-Nation Basketball Championship.

Bhutan’s Captain, Rinchen Dorji, said, “The team didn’t give up even in the dying seconds. We took the lead and we were saying in the room that we have to give our all in this one in a life opportunity. The greatest thing about my team that we didn’t give up easily. To reach the final was a huge achievement and after reaching the final we were telling each other, let’s have fun, let’s make everyone back home proud and let’s give it our all.”

He added that everyone in Bhutan supported the team a lot, and he expressed this thanks to all the Bhutanese people. He said the team’s biggest strength was the tremendous support received throughout the tournament.

“We have a young team and for 5 to 6 years, the same team can go on. I think it is the start of something amazing,” Rinchen Dorji said.

The Bangladesh Coach said, “It was a tough game and both the teams worked hard, especially Bhutan. They worked hard and gave their best effort. We tried our best also too, at the end but we should have pressed even the 3rd quarter and that would have been a better option for us. We tried our best to fight till the end.”

He added, “They (Bhutan team) are lucky too. We saw in the last game they won with the buzzer and they won today in the same way. I think our players were nervous I don’t know what happened to them but anyway they came back very nicely in the game. It was a tough game, but we didn’t win.”

In other developments, the Bhutan Insurance Limited has pledged to award a sum of Nu 25,000 each to all the players and the coaching staff to recognize and appreciate the efforts put in by the National Basketball Team of Bhutan for creating history in Bhutanese sports.

Additionally, they will also be providing Global Travel Insurance coverage of USD 50,000 each, valid for a duration of 1 year to the entire team. 

Rigsar Construction Pvt Ltd will also give Nu 20,000 to each player for the outstanding performance.

The Five-Nation Basketball Champion team arrived in the country to get a warm welcome. There was also a reception for the team hosted by the Basketball Federation of Bhutan at the swimming pool complex where everyone was invited to attend.

22 June 2023 will go down in sports history as the day when Bhutan’s National Basketball Team won its first-ever international tournament.

Phub Gyeltshen, 25, from Bajo, Wangduephodrang, is currently serving in the Royal Bhutan Army. He is a back-to-back Man of the Match winner. He plays in the club basketball for the Pazaps in the BOB A-League and is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year.

Veteran guard Jigme Younten was been consistent throughout the league round in the Five-Nation Basketball Championship. His assists to turn over ratio and PER score are one of the best in the tournament. The Five-Nation Basketball Championship marks team Captain Rinchen Dorji’s 9th international tournament. His leadership was important.

Many people also thanked the head coach Kim for doing wonders with the team.

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