*Report by Vishnu Ravi Shankar. Images by Anukriti Bishen. Inputs, edits & uploads by Gopalakrishnan R
Hyderabad, 26th March 2016: The last day of league matches from the United Basketball Alliance (UBA) Pro Basketball League 2016 concluded a short while ago at the Gachibowli Indoor Stadium in Hyderabad. Despite losing their final league game, Chennai Slam is directly through to the semifinals as the top team from the South Division, while Pune Peshwas (3rd in South) and Bengaluru Beast (2nd in South) will face off in tomorrow’s playoffs.
Present on the occasion were chief guests, Telugu actor Nikhil Siddhartha and former Senior Indian Men’s team captain Mohammed Rizwan. Mr Rizwan spoke about how the UBA has grown over the last season and requested all players to be positive and play a clean game.
“I love basketball and am so happy I am here,” said Nikhil Siddhartha. Complimenting the athletes, he added, “These guys are professionals and play at the national and international level. Their level of play is so high.”
Bengaluru Beast bt Hyderabad Sky 77-68
In the last game of the league stages, southern teams Bengaluru Beast and Hyderabad Sky were looking to clinch a playoff spot in a wide open south division group. Virtually a knockout game, the atmosphere was thick with anticipation with Hyderabad playing before a raucous home crowd.
Bengaluru showed no signs of pressure in the early going, getting off to a fast start in front of the away crowd. Beast centre Somveer had a strong first quarter getting deep paint position to score around the basket. He even turned back the clock to electrify the crowd with a two-handed slam in transition. Point guard Raghuram also knocked down a couple of shots for Beast to give them a double-digit lead at the end of the first quarter.
Down 29 to 16 entering the second quarter, Hyderabad gave the home team something to cheer about fighting their way back into the contest. Mahesh Padmanabhan found his touch from 3-point range draining a triple early. Sky’s Nigerian big man Edwin Oneh asserted his way around the basket overpowering the Bengaluru frontcourt. Hyderabad cut Bengaluru’s lead down to 6 points at halftime down 38 to 44.
In the third quarter, Raghuram started lighting it up for Bengaluru scoring with his jumpers and leaking ahead for transition buckets. He had five steals in the game, converting defense to offense to increase his team’s lead. Somveer continued going to work in the paint and Bengaluru started pulling away from Hyderabad. But towards the end of the third quarter, Monish Wilson and Shri Ganesh Patil came off the bench for the Sky and hit two huge 3-pointers to reduce their deficit to single digits.
With the hosts down by 8 points entering the final period, guard Mahesh Padmanabhan went on a mini-run of his own, battling for his team to stay in the tournament. But Beast forwards Manpreet (13 points) and Kaif Zia (16 points) ensured that their team stayed well ahead, hitting crucial buckets in the paint. A late 3-pointer from Visu Palani pushed Bengaluru to further safety; this was followed by a huge two-handed slam from Kaif Zia that was the final nail in the coffin for Hyderabad. Bengaluru ended on a 77-68 victory clinching a playoff berth and knocking Hyderabad out of the tournament.
Bengaluru Beast (Somveer 19pts 12rbs, Kaif Zia 16pts 11rbs, Raghuram 14pts 4asts 5stls) bt Hyderabad Sky (Mahesh Padmanabhan 19pts, Monish Wilson 9pts, Edwin Oneh 8pts) 77-68 (29-16, 15-22, 17-15, 16-15)
Pune Peshwas bt Chennai Slam 77-74
The final day of the league stages in Season 2 began with last season’s finalists, Pune Peshwas and defending champions Chennai Slam taking on each other in a battle for first place in the southern division. Well aware that the top spot would ensure a direct entry into the semifinals, both teams came out with playoff-type desperation.
Centre Ravi Kumar was seen back in the starting lineup for the Peshwas alongside forward/ centre Gaurav Ohlan. Pune also started with a three-guard lineup with Ajinkya Mane, Siddhanth Shinde and Narender Grewal. Chennai stuck to their usual starting five, which has resulted in 4 wins out of the 6 games they have played. Slam centre Gopal Ram started the game well, taking advantage of mismatches down low to score in the paint. Gopal was complemented well by Niagerain baller Agu who was able to penetrate the Pune defense to either score or create for his teammates.
Chennai went up by 10 points at the end of the first quarter and kept their momentum going in the second quarter as well. Pune found it difficult to handle Agu’s speed and athleticism, while Gopal Ram earned his points on the charity stripe, shooting 12 of 14 on the freethrow line for the game. Forward Ramkumar came off the bench to knock down a couple of triples in the first half to further build Chennai’s lead. Slam ended the first half up 42 to 29 and Pune had a lot of work to do to come back in the contest.
In the second half, Pune coach Nandu Mehta scored a masterstroke by putting in veteran reserve guard Karna Mehta. His instant offense sparked the Pune comeback. Karna was unconscious from the field knocking down all his shots in the second half. Guards Siddhanth Shinde and Narender Grewal also stepped up their game in the third quarter knocking down shots from the inside and the outside. Pune ended the third quarter up by 6 points 57 to 51.
In the fourth, Chennai’s Gopal (24 points) fought valiantly in the paint, trying to regain the lead for his team. But 8 straight points by Karna Mehta (16 points), coupled with some late buckets by centre Ravi Kumar maintained Pune’s slim lead. The Peshwas closed out on a 77-74 victory, finishing the league stages on a high note. Karna Mehta deservedly earned the player of the match honours. The results of the second south division game today would determine the final standings.
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.
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.