*Images by Dulon Kharsati.

Singer and actor Himesh Reshammiya entertains the crowd at halftime.

Singer and actor Himesh Reshammiya entertains the crowd at halftime.

Pune, 28th February 2016: On the final day of the Pune leg of the UBA Pro Basketball League 2016, the atmosphere inside the Shivaji Stadium was electric, with a bigger crowd turnout in anticipation of Pune Peshwas’ final game at home later in the evening. The first game was between south division teams Chennai Slam and Hyderabad Sky that ended with Hyderabad clinching the victory in thrilling fashion.

Singer and actor Himesh Reshammiya was present in the stadium for the first game and electrified the crowd with a halftime performance of his hit songs. Other cast members of his upcoming film ‘Teraa Surroor’ also took in the action today. In the second game, actor Neil Nitin Mukesh enjoyed the home team Pune Peshwas’ victory against Haryana Gold.

Hyderabad Sky bt Chennai Slam

Hyderabad Sky (in white) and Chennai Slam fight for possession.

Hyderabad Sky (in white) and Chennai Slam fight for possession.

After winning their last game against Bengaluru Beast, Hyderabad Sky were looking add to their wins tally entering their last game of the Pune leg against Chennai Slam. Chennai dropped their first match of the tournament in their last game against the Pune Peshwas. Slam was hoping to end the first leg of Season 2 on a high, before heading to Hyderabad for the second leg next month.

Hyderabad chose to begin the game with a smaller and speedier lineup. Their 3-guard combo of Mahesh Padmanabhan, Vijay Kumar and Amit Bishla helped them establish an early lead in the contest, draining jumpers and pushing the tempo for transition buckets. Indo-Australian Mahesh continued his smooth play for the Hyderabad Sky penetrating the Chennai defense and knocking down close mid-range jumpers. Amit Bishla’s insertion in the starting five reaped dividends for Sky. He was aggressive in the early going, looking to drive and finish at the basket. Hyderabad were shooting lights out from 3-point range – Mahesh drained two tough triples; Vijay Kumar and Himanshu Jhangra also knocked down a 3-pointer each to help Hyderabad build a double-digit lead. Sky ended the first quarter with a 12-point lead (28-16).

After conceding the early lead, Chennai began to claw their way back into the contest in the second quarter. Chennai captain Aditya Biswas ended Chennai’s scoring drought with a strong drive to the basket to begin the second quarter. Slam shooting guard Carmel opened his points tally with a nice mid-range jumper off the drive. This triggered Chennai on the defensive end as well with Agu converting steals to offense, leaking out in transition for easy buckets.

But for Hyderabad, Amit Bishla continued to remain aggressive proving too quick for the Chennai defense. Sky’s Mahesh also was also finding the bottom of the basket with regularity, helping to maintain his team’s lead.

Chennai’s shooting woes continued in the second quarter, ending the first half with a dismal 2 of 14 shooting from 3-point land. However, despite the 3-point drought, Chennai managed to cut the lead down to 8 points at halftime. In the third quarter, Chennai started finding its touch, with Vigesh Prabhu and Ramkumar knocking down shots for the Slam to cut down the Hyderabad lead. Chennai centre Gopal and forward Ashutosh added to Chennai’s score with strong plays in the post. Heading into the fourth quarter, Hyderabad was up by 6 points. After a few plays and big 3 by Ramkumar, the score was tied at 73 apiece.

As the game went down the stretch, Chennai struggled to knock down their shots. Despite getting good looks, it seemed like there was a lid on the basket for Chennai as nothing was falling late. Hyderabad held a slim 1-point lead with little over a minute left in the game. The lead was extended to 3 with 50 seconds left after Sky big man Nihal Yadav slipped the pick and roll and hit a layup on a nice assist from Mahesh. Chennai missed on their 3-point attempts and later, on Hyderabad’s final possession, Nihal Yadav had a crucial putback to give his team a 5-point lead with under 10 seconds to go.  Sky clinched an 82-77 victory and Nihal Yadav was awarded the man of the match for his 11 points, including clutch buckets in the end.

Hyderabad Sky (Mahesh Padmanabhan 19, Amit Bishla 16) bt Chennai Slam (Cammy Carmel 14, Ashutosh Rai 14, Chukwunanu Agu 10) 82-77 (28-16, 22-26, 18-20, 14-15)

Pune Peshwas bt Haryana Gold

Gaurav Ohlan of Pune Peshwas (in red) rises in the paint against Haryana Gold (in white).

Gaurav Ohlan of Pune Peshwas (in red) rises in the paint against Haryana Gold (in white).

Looking to end their Pune campaign on a positive note, Haryana Gold came out aggressive against the Pune Peshwas. Pune holds a 2-2 win-loss record in the tournament so far, while Haryana have lost all four of their games.

Haryana Gold began the game with intent, led by the play of their centre Jaskaran. Although he’s had a quiet tournament so far, Jaskaran stepped up today, using his length and earning his points in the paint. Haryana’s guards Vikas Mor and Himanshu Sharma were also aggressive with their penetration and finishing at the basket. For the Peshwas, young centre Gaurav Ohlan also showed up to play today, knocking down close jumpers and rising above defenders to finish in the paint. The first quarter was a high scoring affair with Haryana Gold up 31 to 25.

But Pune fought back to outscore Haryana in the second quarter. Siddhant Shinde was on the attack, creating opportunities for his team in transition. Gaurav Ohlan was on fire throughout the contest crashing the boards, creating second chance opportunities and draining shots around the basket. Pune ended up on top at halftime 45-42, much to the delight of the boisterous crowd.

In the second half, coach’s son small forward Ajinkya Mehta provided an offensive spark off the bench using his size and speed to score on drive-ins. The game went back and forth in the third quarter, with both teams trading buckets. Up by 8 points to begin the fourth, Pune put their foot on the gas to pull away from Haryana. Shinde and backup guard Ajinkya Mane knocked down triples to extend their team’s lead. Gaurav Ohlan continued to pull down offensive rebounds to create second shots for Pune.

After building a double-digit lead, Haryana attempted a late comeback, employing the full court press and scoring in transition. Himanshu Sharma kept plugging away, ending up with 27 points in the game. But a late triple by Pune point guard Shinde (26 points) sealed the deal for the Peshwas who breached the century mark and ended up with a 103-81 victory.

Gaurav Ohlan was awarded the player of the match for his 33 points and 20 rebounds, including 10 offensive boards.

Actor Neil Nitin Mukesh on court during halftime.

Actor Neil Nitin Mukesh on court during halftime.

Pune Peshwas (Gaurav Ohlan 33, Siddhanth Shinde 26, Ajinkya Mehta 9) bt Haryana Gold (Himanshu Sharma 27, Vikas Mor 19, Jaskaran Singh 17) 103-81 (25-31, 20-11, 25-20, 33-19)

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 (Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex) followed by 21st March to 3rd April in Hyderabad (Gachibowli Stadium). 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 and creating merchandising opportunities.

Vishnu Ravi Shankar
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