*Report by Vishnu Ravi Shankar & images by Dulon Kharsati; with inputs from Gopalakrishnan R.
Pune, 19th February 2016: The second season of the United Basketball Alliance (UBA) Pro Basketball League Season 2 completed Day 2 at the Shri Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex in the city. In opening south division games, defending champs Chennai Slam beat back the Hyderabad Sky challenge, while Bengaluru Beast outlasted Pune Peshwas on their homecourt.
“I’m enjoying myself here. Basketball is an amazing sport and God willing, this UBA Season 2 will be a big hit, and there will be more seasons to come!” said Mr Santosh Shukla, actor and celebrity Big Boss contestant. Ms Sana Khan, Indian actor, model and dancer was also present and wished all eight teams the very best.
Bengaluru Beast bt Pune Peshwas
Last year’s runners up Pune Peshwas had their opening game of Season 2 against Bengaluru Beast in front of their home crowd. Coach Nandu Mehtra returns to the Pune side this year along with his sons Arjun and Ajinkya. The Peshwas’ new backcourt this season consists of former India internationals Narender Grewal from the Services and hometown boy, Siddhanth Shinde. Centre Ravi Kumar (from Tamil Nadu) joins the Pune starting five and Pune also has the services of backup centre and junior India player Gaurav Ohlan.
For Bengaluru, Railways player Somveer and forward Manjeet give the Beast much-needed size in the frontcourt that was missing last season. Raghuram (from Tamil Nadu) is their starting point guard along with starters from last season Kaife Zia and Visu Palani.
Both teams looked evenly matched to begin the game. Pune ran their offense through their experienced centre Ravi Kumar, who put in work in the post and provided the Peshwas with the early offensive punch. The backcourt of Siddhanth Shinde and Narender Grewal worked well together with the two guards playing off each other and creating opportunities for their big men to score. However, Ravi Kumar had a tough time on the defensive end guarding Bengaluru centre Somveer, who had an excellent game showcasing his bag of tricks in the post. He even showed off his handles running the floor and finishing coast-to-coast or dishing to his teammates for easy transition buckets.
The game was neck-and-neck throughout with multiple lead changes in the contest. Both teams traded buckets in the second half with little to separate the two sides. Pune’s Narender Grewal (21 points) and Bengaluru’s Visu Palani (17 points), both ‘one-handed shooters’, were involved in a shootout in the third quarter draining jumper after jumper. Towards the end, with little over three minutes of play left in the contest, both teams were tied at 74 apiece.
The last few minutes of the game were a test of nerves and experience. Bengaluru, led by their experienced point guard Raghuram, kept their composure and executed down the stretch. Crucial offensive rebounds and second chance shots by Bengaluru gave them a slim 4-point lead with a minute of play left. The Beast staved off the Peshwas’ comeback attempt in the final minute and closed out the game 85-78 to register a victory in their opening game.
Bengaluru Beast (Somveer 27, Visu Palani 17, Kaife Zia 15) bt Pune Peshwas (Narender Grewal 21, Siddhanth Shinde 15, Ajinkya Mane 13) 85-78 (19-22, 21-20, 20-17, 25-18)
Chennai Slam bt Hyderabad Sky
Defending champions Chennai Slam, the team that won the inaugural edition of the UBA Pro Basketball League, had its first game of Season 2 today against Hyderabad Sky. Chennai retained their core lineup from last season of point guard Chukwunanu Agu (from Nigeria), shooting guard Carmel and captain Aditya Biswas. Their frontcourt has been shored up this year with the addition of centre Gopal, who is a big body on the inside, along with forward Ashutosh Rai from the Services.
Hyderabad Sky, on the other hand, have a completely revamped starting lineup consisting of the MVP of the recently concluded Senior National Basketball Championship and India international Joginder Singh at the point guard position, leading the team. Joining him in the starting lineup today were Nigerian centre Edwin, who played in the recent south zone inter-university final for SRM University, Chennai, guard Himanshu Jangra, Indian-origin Australian baller Mahesh Padmanabhan and forward V. Kumar.
The champs Chennai seemed to have a familiar case of a championship hangover in the beginning of the game today. They were struggling to find the bottom of the basket, with below average shooting from the field. Despite playing for the first time at a competitive level together, the Hyderabad Sky starting lineup looked like seasoned regulars to begin the game. Joginder coordinated the offense well in the initial minutes, as Sky penetration and ball movement to get open shots. Indo-Austrialian combo guard from the Sky, Mahesh, impressed in the early going, creating open shots for his teammates, knocking down jumpers and driving to the basket. Sky guard Himanshu Jangra also contributed with his aggressive style of play. Chennai looked out of sync in the first half with too many isolation plays and tough shots clogging their offensive rhythm.
However, as with any championship calibre team, Chennai Slam kept themselves in the contest managing to trail by only 3 points at halftime. The game turned out to be a tale of two halves, as Chennai came out storming in the third quarter. Point guard Agu found his touch from long range along with Chennai’s sixth man Vignesh Prabhu who drained three shots from behind the arc and ending up with 13 points. Chennai started moving the ball more and finding easy buckets for their big guys in the paint. Versatile forward Ashutosh Rai had a great debut for the Slam, ending up with 27 points, which included a number of open jumpers. Centre Gopal also made his presence felt in the paint with 19 points in the contest.
On the defensive end, Agu made life difficult for Sky point guard Joginder Singh who had an off day shooting-wise. Slam outscored Sky 26 to 9 in the third quarter and set the tone for the rest of the game. The Sky did manage to go on a mini-run at the end of the third quarter, fueled by Mahesh’s back-to-back three pointers, to cut the lead down to 5. But Chennai stepped on the gas in the fourth and clamped down on the defensive end to close out the game at 83-68.
Chennai Slam (Ashutosh Rai 27, Gopal 19, Chukwunanu Agu 16) bt Hyderabad Sky (Mahesh 17, Himanshu Jangra 14, Monish Wilson 12) 83-68 (16-17, 18-20, 26-9, 23-22)
About the UBA Pro Basketball League
The UBA Pro Basketball League is structured on a league cum knockout basis. Season 2 is being held in two phases: 18 to 28 Feb in Pune followed by 21st March to 3rd April in Hyderabad. There are eight teams in total divided into two divisions: Pune Peshwas, Delhi Capitals, Haryana Gold, Punjab Steelers (North division) and Chennai Slam, Mumbai Challengers, Bengaluru Beast and Hyderabad Sky (South division). Chennai Slam won the inaugural season last year with Pune Peshwas finishing second.
About United Basketball Alliance India Pvt. Ltd.
The United Basketball Alliance (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. With respect to its Pro Basketball League, UBA India has already secured primetime television broadcasting arrangements with the Ten Sports Network, and is securing corporate sponsorships for the league, and creating merchandising opportunities.