Images by Anukriti Bishen, with inputs from Gopalakrishnan R.

Telugu movie star Akhil Akkineni was a chief guest on Day 3 of the UBA Pro Basketball League Season 2.

Telugu movie star Akhil Akkineni was a chief guest on Day 3 of the UBA Pro Basketball League Season 2.

Hyderabad, 25th March 2016: The second and final leg of the United Basketball Alliance (UBA) Pro Basketball League 2016, underway at the Gachibowli Indoor Stadium saw Punjab Steelers comfortably beat Haryana Gold in their final north division league match. Later in the evening, Delhi Capitals beat Mumbai Challengers to end the league stages as the best team in the North division.

The evening also saw the appearance of Telugu film actor Akhil Akkineni, who was the chief guest on the occasion. “It is great to see UBA here [in Hyderabad]. I went to a basketball game in the US once and I can see that UBA has set up a similar league here,” said the actor.

Delhi Capitals bt Mumbai Challengers 104-94

Teams from two of India’s biggest cities, Mumbai Challengers and Delhi Capitals, squared off against each other today in their last league stage game. Delhi Capitals hold the best record in the tournament (5-1) and was looking to maintain their top position in the northern division. The Challengers, with a 4-2 record, were gunning for the top spot in their group to ensure a direct qualification to the semifinals.

With their starting centre Ramesh sitting out this game, Delhi began the game with forward Yudhvir Singh in the frontcourt along with Smithin Setu. The move immediately paid off for Delhi, as Yudhvir scored 6 quick points in the first quarter. Guard Vinay Kaushik continued his MVP calibre run driving aggressively to the basket. For the Challengers, point guard Prudhvi Reddy found his touch from long range in the first period and swingman Karan Pal Singh came off the bench to knock down consecutive triples. The first quarter ended with Delhi up 28 to 20.

Vinay Kaushik continued his momentum into the second quarter, fearlessly driving to the basket and earning his points at the freethrow line. Mumbai, however, continued plugging away into Delhi’s lead. Centre Gagandeep Singh used his size and dexterity to finish at the basket. Shooting guard Ranbir Singh knocked down two huge triples to further cut into Delhi’s lead in the second quarter. But a couple of timely triples from young guard Sunil Rathee off the bench helped maintain the Capitals’ lead with the halftime score at 50 to 40.

Delhi Capitals' shooting guard Vinay Kaushik draws contact against rival guard Ranbir Singh of Mumbai Challengers.

Delhi Capitals’ shooting guard Vinay Kaushik draws contact against rival guard Ranbir Singh of Mumbai Challengers.

In the third quarter, athletic forward Nikhil Dahiya (20 points and 11 rebounds) caught fire for Mumbai knocking down turnaround jumpers and grabbing second chance points. Mumbai centre Gagandeep remained consistent producing points from the post. Unfortunately, however, Delhi brought out its X-factor, forward Satyajeet, from the bench, who unexpectedly put up 12 points in the third quarter alone. His off-the-ball movement ensured that he was always in the right place at the right time to find easy buckets. He even ended the third quarter with a spectacular two-handed dunk at the buzzer to give the Capitals a huge momentum boost going into the fourth.

Mumbai did make an attempted comeback in the fourth quarter with some huge triples from point guard Prudhvi Reddy (17 points). But it was too little too late, as Delhi kept finding its way to the basket, shooting above 50% from the field against a non-existent Mumbai defense down the stretch. Delhi ended up hitting the century mark and finished the league stages on the top of their group. They now get a direct entry into the semifinals, while Mumbai will have to cross a playoff hurdle first.

Delhi Capitals (Vinay Kaushik 22pts 10rbs, Yudhvir Singh 14pts 11rbs, Satyajeet 13pts, Sachin Sharma 12pts 5asts) bt Mumbai Challengers (Gagandeep Singh 24pts, Nikhil Dahiya 20pts 11rbs, Karan Pal Singh 20pts, Prudhvi Reddy 17pts 4asts) 104-94 (28-20, 22-20, 24-23, 30-31)

Punjab Steelers bt Haryana Gold 87-65

The winless Haryana Gold who have lost all their six games had only pride left to play for in this tournament as they took on the Punjab Steelers today in Hyderabad in the last league stage game for both teams. Punjab has only won two games and was desperate to improve their record in the push for a semifinal spot.

Punjab opened the game on a 7-0 run in the first couple of minutes and maintained a fast paced offensive style going in the early minutes orchestrated by international point guard Akilan Pari. Playing tight defense with active hands, Punjab forced Haryana turnovers that led to easy transition buckets. Punjab centre Gurvinder Gill and forward Kaushal did a good job of protecting the rim, making life difficult for Haryana’s slashers. The first quarter ended with the Steelers up 21 to 8.

Air Alert! Player of the match Gurvinder Gill of Punjab Steelers rises for the block against Haryana Gold.

Air Alert! Player of the match Gurvinder Gill of Punjab Steelers rises for the block against Haryana Gold.

In the second quarter, Punjab continued their surge taking advantage of Haryana’s poor transition defense. Veteran guard Amrit Pal Singh kept leaking out on the break to hit open layups in transition, while point guard Akilan had 6 assists in the first half itself. Steelers’ centre Gurvinder Gill used his athleticism to find his way to the basket on his way to 11 points. The Steelers raced to a 20-point lead in the second quarter and entered halftime up 42 to 20. As the game entered the third quarter, Haryana guards Himanshu Sharma and Vikas (15 points) ignited their team, converting defense to offense for some quick buckets. Forward Deepak Rathee (12 points) also contributed in the third quarter using his big body to create space and knock down shots in the paint.

But Haryana’s hopes of a comeback were dampened by Punjab’s strong fourth quarter. Reigning MVP Ravi Bhardwaj (14 points) showed up for the Steelers in the final period hitting tough shots from the paint overpowering Gold centre Jaskaran. Haryana were forced to guard him from the perimeter as well after he knocked down a triple early in the fourth. Ravi and the Punjab bench carried the Steelers through the rest of the game as they cruised to a blowout 87-65 victory, ending their league stage campaign on a winning note. Haryana Gold end their nightmarish tournament with another loss and will have a lot of work to do before the next season begins.

Punjab Steelers (Ravi Bhardwaj 14pts, Amrit Pal Singh 14pts, Gurvinder Gill 11pts 10rbs) bt Haryana Gold (Jaskaran 19pts 13rbs, Vikas Mor 15pts, Deepak Rathee 12pts) 87-65 (21-8, 21-12, 18-25, 27-20)

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 23 March to 3 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: www.facebook.com/ubaindia/. Twitter:  @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 tournament play, and creating merchandising opportunities.

Vishnu Ravi Shankar
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