Gopalakrishnan R & Vishnu Ravi Shankar, Hyderabad, 27th July 2015: Prior to today’s games in the UBA Indian Pro Basketball League 2015, the semi-finalists from the northern division have been confirmed with Punjab Steelers and Haryana Gold making it to the knockout stages. On the other hand, in the southern division, apart from Hyderabad Sky, the other three teams were still in contention for the remaining two semi-final spots. Thus the last league games of Chennai Slam v. Bengaluru Beast and Pune Peshwas v. Hyderabad Sky were make or break matches for these teams.

Chennai Slam v. Bengaluru Beast

Difference Maker - Chennai Slam's centre Vignesh Muralinath in action against Bengaluru Beast.

Difference Maker – Chennai Slam’s centre Vignesh Muralinath in action against Bengaluru Beast.

The top two teams in the southern division thus far, Chennai Slam and Bengaluru Beast took on each other in the first game of Day 11. Chennai were missing the services of versatile swingman and scoring punch Bernette Carmel Joseph who suffered an injury to his right hand. Slam had to mix up their starting lineup with Bopanna starting in place of the injured Joseph and big man Vignesh Muralinath starting at centre.

Chennai looked sluggish to start the game with some uncharacteristic turnovers in transition by their usually solid guards. Their go-to long range shooter Ramkumar failed to connect in the first half. However, Nigerian baller Agu, kept his team afloat with timely buckets. Bengaluru had the edge in the first half, outscoring Chennai 34 to 28, buoyed by their enigmatic guard TJ Sahi.

Known for its dramatic comebacks, Chennai took over the second half with new starting centre Muralinath having a huge impact. Bengaluru made the mistake of living with Muralinath’s jumpshot and he made them pay multiple times with mid-range jumpers from the elbow and the baseline. Muralinath, along with forward Ramkumar, dominated the boards and both ended up with double-doubles. Chennai captain Aditya Biswas also contributed to his team’s scoring pouring in 11 points.

Chennai built on their momentum from the third quarter and completely dominated the fourth, outscoring Bengaluru 21 to 11. TJ Sahi had little support on the offensive end from his teammates as they struggled to find baskets down the stretch. Huge jumpers from Chennai’s Muralinath in the final few minutes sealed the deal and clinched a semi-final berth for Slam. The last day of the league stages tomorrow will decide who Chennai will face next in the knockout round. For Bengaluru, their future in the tournament hinged on the outcome of the second game of the day between Hyderabad Sky and Pune Peshwas.

Chennai Slam (Chukwunanu Agu 23, Vignesh Muralinath 13, Ramkumar 11, Aditya Biswas 11) bt Bengaluru Beast (TJ Sahi 26, Kaif Zia 11, Hrishikesh Naidu 8) 67-59 (14-17, 14-17, 18-14, 21-11)

Hyderabad Sky v. Pune Peshwas

Pune Peshwas captain Arjun Mehta in action against Hyderabad Sky.

Pune Peshwas captain Arjun Mehta in action against Hyderabad Sky.

With Bengaluru clinging to the second place spot after the first game of Day 11, Pune Peshwas had the opportunity to climb up the table and clinch that last semi-final spot with a win against Hyderabad Sky. But Hyderabad Sky, playing for pride in front of their home crowd, were not going to make the road easy for Pune.

Pune stuck to their game plan in their final league game, with their go-to player and captain Arjun Mehta getting multiple touches on the offensive end. Pune were missing the services of guards Ajinkya Mane and Nitin Chopade, but guard Karna Mehta came back today after sustaining a gash to his upper lip to provide a calming presence on the floor for the Peshwas.

For Hyderabad, sharpshooter Vijay Merugu connected repeatedly from 3-point range, while fellow guard Liju Abraham provided support on offense. The first half was almost neck-and-neck ending with Hyderabad up 37 to 36. With a raucous home crowd cheering their team on in their final league game, Hyderabad Sky came out with intent in the third quarter outscoring the Peshwas 18 to 9. Down by 10 points and with one quarter remaining, it was do-or-die time for Pune. The Bengaluru team were keeping a close watch from beyond the sidelines, hoping that Hyderabad does them a favour with a victory.

That was when Pune showed their mettle. Peshwas’ centre P. Vijay, who got a shellacking from his coach in the third quarter and was benched, was brought on again and showed his class. With big buckets down the stretch, including a huge and-1 play, Hyderabad had no answer for Vijay’s mastery around the basket. Vijay put up MVP type numbers with 33 points and 11 rebounds. Substitute Arjun Shewale put the final nail in the coffin for Hyderabad with a long-range two-pointer in the final minute to put his team up by 1 point. The Peshwas held on to their slim lead and clinched the victory and the last semi-final spot, thereby ousting Bengaluru Beast from the tournament.

Pune Peshwas (P. Vijay 33, Arjun Mehta 15, Deepak Pawar 8) bt Hyderabad Sky (Vijay Merugu 21, Liju Abraham 16, Sujith Reddy 8) 70-69 (14-14, 22-23, 9-18, 25-14)

Current Standings*

Group A

Group B

Chennai Slam 4-2 (+35) Haryana Gold 4-1 (+41)
Pune Peshwas 3-3 (-6) Punjab Steelers 4-1 (+35)
Bengaluru Beast 3-3 (-10) Delhi Capitals 2-3 (+28)
Hyderabad Sky 2-4 (-20) Mumbai Challengers 0-5 (-104)

Note: The standings are based on each team’s win-loss record and point differential only. 

About the UBA Pro Basketball League

The UBA Pro Basketball League is structured on a league cum knockout basis. The Pro League is being held between 17th to 30th July at the Gachibowli Multipurpose Indoor stadium in Hyderabad that has been specially refurbished for this event. There are eight teams in total: Pune Peshwas, Delhi Capitals, Haryana Gold, Punjab Steelers, Chennai Slam, Mumbai Challengers, Bengaluru Beast and Hyderabad Sky.  The eight teams have been divided into two groups of four each on geographical lines: Bengaluru Beast, Pune Peshwas, Chennai Slam and Hyderabad Sky in one group and Delhi Capitals, Haryana Gold, Mumbai Challengers and Punjab Steelers in the other group. Teams will play each other twice in the league rounds, and the two teams with the best records after six league matches will qualify for the semifinals.

For more information, visit: http://www.ubaindia.com/.

About Universal Basketball Alliance of India (UBA)

The Universal Basketball Alliance of India, LLC (UBA India) is a next-generation sports branding company. Its main objective is to make sport brands mean something to their sport viewers. To do that, UBA helps brands connect with viewers by providing insight-driven ideas across all media platforms. In addition to the ongoing maiden Pro Basketball League, UBA India has acquired the broadcast, merchandise and sponsorship rights to the existing, and self-governing Indian University Basketball Program.  The UBA is currently securing television broadcasting arrangements, securing corporate sponsorships for tournament play, and creating merchandising opportunities.

UBA will focus its attention on the AIU and popularizing its All India Inter Zonal Tournament as an entertainment product for Indian viewers to enjoy for generations to come, just as collegiate Basketball is in the United States.

Team Ekalavyas
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