*Report by Vishnu Ravi Shankar & images by Dulon Kharsati; with inputs from Gopalakrishnan R. 

Actors Vidya Malavade and Rajeev Paul get introduced to the Punjab Steelers lineup.

Actors Vidya Malavade and Rajeev Paul get introduced to the Punjab Steelers lineup.

Pune, 21st February 2016: The United Basketball Alliance (UBA) Pro Basketball League Season 2 saw some exciting Day 4 action, with Chennai Slam and Mumbai Challengers going up 2-0.

The evening also saw actors Vidya Malavade and Rajeev Paul grace the occasion as celebrity guests. “I’m a huge sports fanatic, and big congratulations to the UBA and the players. I’m honoured to be back here for the second season,” said Ms Malavade.

“It is great to see international level of basketball action in Pune. I wish UBA all the best, and I hope that in the coming years more Bollywood celebrities and sports stars get associated with the league,” said Mr Paul.

Mumbai Challengers bt Punjab Steelers

After their opening loss against the Delhi Capitals, the Punjab Steelers were looking to kick start their win column in their second game of Season 2 against the strong Mumbai Challengers side. Mumbai won their first game in blowout fashion against Haryana Gold and are the early favourites in the tournament. The Steelers had a rejuvenated starting lineup with India international point guard Akilan Pari playing his first game for the Punjab.

The first five minutes were better than anyone expected for Mumbai as they got off to a 15-2 start. Karan Pal Singh found his touch from long range draining a couple of 3s in the early minutes. Challengers’ centre Gagandeep Singh used his body in the paint to find space and knock down his patented bank shots. Punjab’s Gurvinder Gill had a tough time with Jagdeep Bains guarding him. Bains schooled Gill, stripping the ball off him as Gill was unable to get around Bains in the paint. The first half completely belonged to the Challengers who had a fluid offensive rhythm with contributions from multiple players.

Slam Dunk! Nikhil of Mumbai Challengers throws down a two handed dunk in transition against Punjab Steelers.

Slam Dunk! Nikhil of Mumbai Challengers throws down a two handed dunk in transition against Punjab Steelers.

With the first half ending with Mumbai up 47-28, Punjab had to make a big run to get back into the game. That’s exactly what they did in the third quarter, cutting down the deficit one basket at a time. Punjab’s international point guard Akilan broke down the Mumbai defense, penetrating and creating for his teammates. Shooting guard Manoj drained the open shots he got from long range and Akilan managed to score from 3-point range as well. Gurvinder became more aggressive in the third quarter powering his way to the basket. At one point, the Mumbai lead was cut down to 6 points and the game became a contest. But, late in the third quarter, the Challengers switched into a higher gear. Forward Nikhil had another great game for Mumbai working his way on the inside, which included a couple of spectacular two-handed slams in transition. Former India player Ranbir Singh (15 points) came off the bench for the Challengers and was very efficient for his team, knocking down shots from inside and outside. Mumbai also pounded the offensive boards – Jagdeep Bains was especially aggressive on the boards creating multiple second chance opportunities for his team. Karan Pal Singh and Gagandeep Singh kept nailing their attempts, helping to extend Mumbai’s lead and eventually convert the game into a blowout.

The Challengers won their second game of the season 83-68, while last year’s semifinalists, the Steelers, are still looking for their first win this season.

Mumbai Challengers (Gagandeep Singh 17, Karan Pal Singh 15, Ranbir Singh 15) bt Punjab Steelers (Gurvinder Gill 15, Manoj R. 13, Ravi Bhardwaj 10) 83-68 (24-10, 23-18, 16-23, 20-17)

Chennai Slam bt Bengaluru Beast

On Day 4 of the UBA Pro Basketball League Season 2, south powerhouses Chennai Slam and Bengaluru Beast took on each other for the first time. Both Bengaluru and defending champs Chennai won their opening games and were looking to go up 2-0 this season.

In the first quarter, both teams went to their big men down low. Beast forward Manjeet found his touch from mid-range knocking down jumpers to open the scoring for his team. His teammate and centre Somveer was also working hard to earn his points in the post. For the Slam, it was centre Gopal who was showing his touch in the paint piling on the points with his baby hooks. Chennai’s best scorer Agu was restricted in the early going owing to Beast point guard Raghuram’s tight defense coupled with help defense from his teammates. Beast’s Jain University (Bengaluru) products Kaife Zia and Visu Palani played tight perimeter defense with active hands and by plugging the passing lanes. Kaife also provided the offense for the Beast, using his athleticism to finish at the rim.  The game was close in the first quarter, which ended with Chennai up 21-17.

Bopanna of Chennai Slam being closely guarded by Yashas Ramesh of Bengaluru Beast.

Bopanna of Chennai Slam being closely guarded by Yashas Ramesh of Bengaluru Beast.

In the second quarter, however, Chennai turned on the defensive switch employing a full court press, testing the handles of the Beast players. Consecutive turnovers by the Beast led to easy buckets for the Slam. Bench rotation was on display in the game, with both coaches going deep into their rosters. Chennai forward Arjun G K (from Kerala) used his length to create off the dribble and finish in transition. Arjun quickly put up double digits in the first half itself. Slam had multiple offensive weapons to choose from with forward Ashutosh Rai’s timely mid-range jumpers hurting the Beast throughout the game. After Chennai took a 13-point lead at halftime, Beast attempted their comeback in the third quarter. With Chennai centre Gopal Ram sitting out with foul trouble, the Slam had to go small with Longi (from Nigeria) playing the five. Bengaluru’s Manjeet (15 points) was effective from the mid-range hitting his jumpers. Kaife was impressive with his hustle on the defensive end creating transition opportunities for his team. Beast managed to cut the lead down to 6 points towards the end of the third quarter.

But, in a flash, Chennai turned up the heat on Bengaluru. Agu had a huge chasedown block in the fourth quarter that triggered the Chennai run. Centre Gopal (14 points) came back into the game and forward Ashutosh Rai (16 points) continued hitting his mid-range shots. Slam guard Vignesh Prabhu knocked down a couple of threes late in the fourth to seal the deal for Chennai, as they blew the game wide open and ended up with a 80-64 victory.

Chennai Slam (Ashutosh Rai 16, Gopal 14, Chukwunanu Agu 13, Arjun GK 13) bt Bengaluru Beast (Manjeet 15, Kaife Zia 13, Somveer 9) 80-64 (21-17, 25-16, 16-14, 18-17)

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.

For more information, visit: www.ubaindia.in/. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ubaindia/

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.

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