* Report by Vishnu Ravi Shankar. Images by Anukriti Bishen, with inputs from Gopalakrishnan R.
Hyderabad, 27th March 2016: The United Basketball Alliance (UBA) Pro Basketball League Season 2 witnessed exciting playoffs action today at the Gachibowli Indoor Stadium in the city. Mumbai Challengers and Pune Peshwas both came from behind to beat Punjab Steelers and Bengaluru Beast respectively, and qualify for the semis.
Telugu Actor Sushanth A. was the chief guest for the game, and even tried his hand at the sport. When asked to share his thoughts on the UBA Pro Basketball League and the participating athletes, he said, “I’m having a ball. They are playing really well. I got to see a slam dunk! I can’t dunk so I’m very impressed.”
Pune Peshwas bt Bengaluru Beast 79-73
The second playoff game of the day was between last year’s finalists Pune Peshwas and their southern division rivals Bengaluru Beast. The winner would face south division toppers and defending champions Chennai Slam in the semifinals.
Kaif Zia opened the scoring for Bengaluru with an unexpected 3-pointer and he did not stop there, aggressively driving to the basket and scoring 7 first quarter points. Beast forward Manpreet hit a couple of mid-range jumpers, while centre Somveer earned his points on the freethrow line. For Pune, it was a one-man wrecking crew with Narender Grewal scoring 10 out of his team’s 12 points in the first period. Beast managed to end the first quarter with a 3-point lead up 15 to 12.
After a low scoring first quarter, both teams stepped up their offense in the second quarter. Kaif lit up the scoreboard for the Beast, using his speed and athleticism to penetrate the Pune defense and finish at the rim. Manpreet peppered Beast’s scoring with a couple of jumpers to add to his team’s lead. Kaif topped off Bengaluru’s second quarter run with a two-handed slam towards the end of the period. Point guard Shinde held up Pune’s offense, driving assertively to the basket.
Down by five points entering the second half, Pune kept plugging away, remaining within close distance of Bengaluru. Centre Gaurav Ohlan provided Pune with crucial second chance points en route to his double-double of 15 points and 10 rebounds. But Bengaluru remained in the lead thanks to the stellar play of guard Visu Palani, who fearlessly drove into the paint, scoring 10 points in the third quarter alone. Peshwas’ Shinde ended the third quarter with a double clutch jumper to keep his team within 6 points of Bengaluru (59-55).
Down the stretch in the fourth quarter, both teams traded buckets taking and making tough shots. The game was poised at 63-63 with five minutes left, when the unafraid players of both teams stepped up. Kaif (27 points) continued to hit acrobatic layups and tough floaters to build his team’s score. Point guard Raghuram finished on a couple alley-oop plays midway through the fourth quarter to give his team a slim lead. But Pune was not willing to go down without a fight. Shinde, somehow, got to his side of the lane, driving in from the right to finish strong for two layups. Gaurav Ohlan pulled down crucial offensive rebounds and made his way to the freethrow line, drawing fouls with his hard-hitting play. A big bucket from Gaurav Ohlan off another offensive rebound towards the end of the game shut down Bengaluru’s hopes, putting Pune up by 4. A couple of late freethrows sinked by Shinde sealed the deal and Pune advanced to the semifinals to face Chennai Slam in a best-of-three series. Narender Grewal was awarded player of the match honours.
Pune Peshwas (Narender Grewal 23pts 11rbs, Siddhanth Shinde 20pts 5asts, Gaurav Ohlan 15pts 10rbs) bt Bengaluru Beast (Kaif Zia 27pts, Visu Palani 16pts, Manpreet 9pts 10rbs) 79-73 (12-15, 21-23, 16-17, 30-18)
Mumbai Challengers bt Punjab Steelers 78-76
The playoffs have begun here in Hyderabad in Season 2 of the UBA Pro Basketball League. The second and third placed teams in each of the divisions are set to take on each other for a spot in the semifinals. The first playoff game was between north division contenders Mumbai Challengers and the dark horse Punjab Steelers. These teams have met each other twice in the league stages and Mumbai comfortably took both the games. But the past meant little to Punjab in this all-or-nothing contest.
After a scoring drought in the first two minutes owing to tight defense from both teams, Steelers’ guard Amrit Pal Singh opened the game’s scoring with a mid-range jumper. Punjab jumped onto an early 10-2 lead, with forward Kaushal putting his post moves on display to score early buckets. For Mumbai, centre Gagandeep Singh came off the bench and was reliable as ever, going to work in the paint. Guard Ranbir Singh nailed a triple in the first quarter to get his rhythm going and Mumbai quickly erased the deficit to end the first period up 18 to 17.
The second quarter began with a scoring battle between Punjab teammates centre Gurvinder Gill of the Steelers and Ranbir from the Challengers. Ranbir picked up from where he left off to nail a triple to begin the second quarter. Gurvinder provided a couple of early buckets being aggressive getting to the basket. Steelers’ point guard Akilan Pari proved his mettle in the second quarter knocking down transition buckets and long-range jumpers. But the period belonged to Challengers shooting guard Ranbir who hit another triple and made his way to the basket to score 10 points in the second period alone, putting his team up 39 to 34 at halftime.
Punjab’s never-give-up attitude was on show in the third quarter as they came out all guns blazing after halftime. Tightening up on the defensive end, Gurvinder and backup centre Ravi Bhardwaj were active, disrupting passing lanes and protecting the rim. The Steelers converted defense to offense with multiple players running the lanes and finishing at the basket. Guard Manoj hit a big triple to trigger the Steelers run. Punjab’s Bhardwaj came off the bench to score 6 quick points in the third. Gurvinder capped off his team’s scoring spree with a huge two-handed slam on the break towards the end of the third quarter. Punjab outscored Mumbai 21 to 9 in the third period and was up 55 to 48 entering the fourth quarter.
In the final ten minutes, Mumbai started strong, desperate for a playoff spot after a disappointing first season. Mumbai forward Nikhil Dahiya began the quarter with a couple of mid-range baskets. Guard Ranbir Singh and forward Jagdeep Singh Bains drove in aggressively and earned their points on the freethrow line. Gagandeep Singh kept plugging away in the post, proving too big for the Punjab frontcourt. Mumbai regained the lead within the first five minutes of the fourth quarter to put Punjab on the backfoot. Steelers’ shooting guard Manoj hit a couple of triples to keep his team within striking distance of the Challengers. Down by two points down the stretch, Gurvinder got his second slam of the game to tie the scores and ignite his team. A couple of possessions and an exchange of baskets later, Akilan Pari hit a huge and-1 3-pointer and completed the 4-point play to give his team a 1-point lead with a minute left in the game. On the other end, Ranbir gets fouled and makes both of his freethrows to help Mumbai regain their lead. Centre Bhardwaj manages to tie the game again making one out of two freethrows after getting hacked. With the gaem tied at 76 apeice, Mumbai’s Jagdeep Bains used the up-and-under move to knock down a tough game-winning jumper. Down 76 to 78 with 14 seconds left, Punjab were unable to find the bottom of the basket and Mumbai held on to clinch the victory. They now advance to the semifinals where they will face the Delhi Capitals in a best-of-three series.
Mumbai Challengers (Gagandeep Singh 23pts 12rbs, Ranbir Singh 21pts, Jagdeep Singh Bains 15pts 11rbs 4asts) bt Punjab Steelers (Gurvinder Gill 21pts 16rbs, Akilan Pari 20pts 5asts, Ravi Bhardwaj 9pts, Manoj R. 9pts) 78-76 (18-17, 21-17, 9-21, 30-21)
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.