Gopalakrishnan R & Vishnu Ravi Shankar, Hyderabad, 29th July 2015: In a sensational evening of national pro basketball, Chennai Slam and Pune Peshwas have set up a title clash tomorrow in the inaugural UBA Pro Basketball League 2015 that is underway at the Gachibowli Indoor Stadium in Hyderabad.
MS Nagaraju, founder and president of Telagana Cinema Artists Association (TCAA) was the chief guest of the evening and he extended full support to the UBA on behalf of the state of Telangana. Hindi film actor and model Evelyn Sharma was also present on the occasion. Said the actor, “I am super excited to be here. I think UBA is doing an amazing job. I was here last time in Chennai and now I can see a much bigger crowd and some familiar faces.”
Chennai Slam v. Punjab Steelers
Punjab and Tamil Nadu are well known regional powerhouses in Indian basketball. For the first time in this UBA Pro Basketball League 2015, the two giants faced off in the semifinals after coming through a gruelling set of league matches in their respective groups. Chennai (4-2) topped their group, while Punjab (4-2) were the second seeded side in theirs.
Prior to tip off, the air was thick with anticipation as the two sides were introduced before a near packed Gachibowli Stadium. Chennai stuck to their new starting lineup with Vignesh Muralinath, the hero of Chennai’s crucial win against Bengaluru Beast, getting his second start at centre. Surprisingly, international forward Gurvinder Gill did not start for the Steelers and their other starting forward Veeranant Grewal had to sit the semifinal out due to an ankle injury.
Both teams were circumspect to begin the game, feeling out each other’s playing styles. Steelers’ strong guard Sartaj Sandhu found his touch from long range, connecting on his first two triples. Playing the centre position at the start, Punjab’s Ravi Bhardwaj maintained his consistency and got his mid-range game going. Swingman Bernette Carmel Joseph was back in the starting lineup for Chennai and coupled with Nigerian star Agu and versatile forward Ramkumar, Chennai began scoring from all around the floor. But the first quarter still ended with Punjab up by four points 23 to 19.
Entering the second quarter, Punjab got their international player Gurvinder Gill on the floor. By his own admission, Gill was not fit enough to start the game as he was still nursing an injury to his right leg. In the second quarter, Chennai stepped up their defensive intensity. Unfazed by the presence of Gill, Chennai centre Vignesh Muralinath proved to be a big match player, acting as a rim protector for his team. He had some emphatic blocks at crucial points in the game and made life difficult for Punjab’s slashers, who were looking for him on every drive to the basket. On the offensive end, Muralinath created second-chance points for his team with vital offensive rebounds and tip-ins.
Chennai’s guard Vignesh Prabhu had his best game of the tournament in this semifinal, shooting lights out from the field and ending up with a 50% field-goal percentage. Prabhu and forward Ramkumar connected on eight huge 3-pointers. Chennai’s defensive pressure was too much to handle for the Steelers, who turned the ball over 15 times in today’s game. Agu and Chennai captain Aditya Biswas had five steals each in the game, and converted their stellar defence to offence for easy transition buckets. Agu put up solid all-round numbers with 15 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists and 5 steals. The second and third quarters were completely dominated by Chennai who built a lead of 20+ points.
“We are a team and we play team basketball”, said Agu when quizzed about his team’s style of play. The unselfish nature of Chennai was on clear display with San-Antonio-Spurs-like ball movement; this despite the fact that it was Punjab Steelers who wore the Spurs colours of black and grey. There were possessions when the ball hardly ever hit the deck and all five players ended up with touches. The balanced scoring effort was testament to this, as five players ended up scoring in double-digits.
Punjab’s Sartaj Sandhu and Ravi Bhardwaj had little support on the offensive end from their teammates, who were not used to the defensive pressure displayed by Chennai. Ravi continued to plug away on the offensive end and ended up with a double-double of 20 points and 10 rebounds. But, entering the fourth quarter, it was too little too late for Punjab as they were unable to erase the massive deficit created by Chennai. Chennai cruised to a blowout victory and booked a place in the finals, scheduled to take place tomorrow at 4:00 pm.
Chennai Slam (Vignesh Prabhu 24, Ramkumar 19, Chukwunanu Agu 15, Aditya Biswas 13) bt Punjab Steelers (Sartaj Sandhu 28, Ravi Bhardwaj 20, Kuldeep Singh 6, Akshit Kohal 6) 92-77 (19-23, 29-13, 24-17, 20-24)
Pune Peshwas v. Haryana Gold
Group B toppers, Haryana Gold with a 5-1 record faced the underrated Pune Peshwas (3-3) in the second semifinal today. Haryana Gold had little trouble in the league stages and ended up with the best win-loss record among all eight teams. Pune, on the other hand, scraped through to the semi-finals on the back of some tense league victories and their point differential.
Pune Peshwas had a rejuvenated lineup today having the services of Kerala forward Edwin Irwin at their disposal. This added some much needed size to their frontcourt against the big Haryana Gold team. Haryana continued with their tried and tested lineup of Rakesh and Sushant in the frontcourt, and Himanshu, Vikas and Birender in the backcourt. Pune Peshwas led from the get-go with captain Arjun Mehta stepping up his game and new entrant Edwin Irwin making up for starting centre P. Vijay’s visible physical discomfort. The first quarter ended with Pune in the lead 23 to 19.
Peshwas did a wonderful job of eliminating Haryana’s threat in the paint, as Haryana’s offense was forced to be routed through Sushant’s outside jumpshots. Centre Rakesh, who up until now, had stellar offensive performances down low, was completely negated by Pune’s frontcourt duo of Vijay and Irwin. At halftime, Pune Peshwas led 45-37.
But, not without nothing were Haryana the team with the most wins in the league stages. A comeback was in the offing. Haryana matched Pune Peshwas shot for shot in the second half. Haryana guard Vikas Mor, led from the front for his team, connecting on his shots at an efficient clip. But Pune’s top scorer Ajinkya Mane kept his team ahead, with some beautiful drives to the basket and a crafty mid-range game. Fellow guard Karna Mehta also poured in some big buckets with runners in the lane.
Come fourth quarter, Haryana Gold made a late run. With under five minutes left in the game, Gold came with 2 points of the Peshwas and eventually took a lead of 2 points. The momentum seemed to be moving towards Haryana, who had the opportunity to build an insurmountable lead in the final minute. But captain Birender Singh and centre Rakesh missed clutch freethrows and their team’s lead remained at 2. With 8 seconds remaining in the game and with Pune down by 2 points, Ajinkya Mehta found his teammate Karna in the corner, who buried the go-ahead triple. Up by one point and with virtually no time remaining, Pune held on to the 1-point lead to clinch the victory and book a date with Chennai Slam in the final tomorrow.
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.