Report by Vishnu Ravi Shankar, images by Anukriti Bishen, with inputs from Gopalakrishnan R.
Hyderabad, 28th March 2016: The United Basketball Alliance (UBA) Pro Basketball League Season 2 saw the first round of semifinals action today, at the Gachibowli Indoor Stadium. Mumbai Challengers beat Delhi Capitals in the first of the best of three semifinals from the north division. Likewise, Chennai Slam beat Pune Peshwas in the south.
The second semifinals of the day, between Chennai Slam and Pune Peshwas also witnessed the presence of celebrity guest actor Pragya Jaiswal. “[It is great to see] young men pursuing their dreams and playing so confidently. So I am really happy to be here. I wish all the best to both the teams,” said Ms Jaiswal, who is a law graduate from Symbiosis Law School, Pune.
Chennai Slam bt Pune Peshwas 88-72
The second semifinal series was between southern division rivals and last year’s finalists, Chennai Slam and Pune Peshwas. The defending champions had lost their last league game to the Peshwas and were eager to get revenge in the first of the three semifinals today.
Peshwas’ shooting guard Narender Grewal lit it up from 3-point range in the early minutes, knocking down his first two triples. For Chennai, forward Ashutosh Rai put his mid-range game on show, draining four jumpers in the first quarter. Chennai’s veteran centre Gopal Ram overpowered the leaner Gaurav Ohlan in the post to finish on baby hooks or easy lay-ins. On the other end, Gaurav Ohlan sparked the Pune offense taking advantage of the space given to him by the Chennai defense. He showed his mid-range touch, ending up with 8 first quarter points. Pune upped Chennai in the first period with the score at 21-17.
Chennai point guard Agu turned up the heat in the second quarter with an early 3-pointer. But Pune answered through Narender who hit another couple of 3-pointers in the early minutes of the second quarter to keep his team in the lead. At this point, centre Gopal lit up the scoreboard for Chennai using his size and touch to score down low. Neither Gaurav Ohlan nor any other Pune defenders were able to control Gopal’s scoring run (12 points in the second quarter). Chennai tightened up on the defensive end as well, pushing the tempo on Pune turnovers for easy transition buckets. Apart from Narender and Gaurav, no other Pune player was able to find the bottom of the basket as Chennai outscored Pune 27 to 12 in the second quarter.
Up 44 to 33 at halftime, Chennai kept its foot on the gas, led by Agu and Gopal. Agu knocked down a 3-pointer to start the third quarter and continued to be aggressive driving to the basket. Gopal remained unstoppable in the post, muscling his way to the basket and shooting above 70% from the freethrow line. Lengthy forward Arjun GK came off the bench for Chennai to provide the hustle element, scrapping for offensive rebounds and loose balls and making the right cuts to the basket. Chennai continued to remain on top, ending the first quarter up 62 to 48.
In the fourth quarter, Narender Grewal (32 points) hit another couple of triples for Pune in their hunt for a comeback. Gaurav Ohlan (21 points) put on an impressive mid-range show, hitting on multiple jumpers. But there was little support from the rest of the Pune team with no other player scoring in double digits. Gopal and Agu kept firing away to maintain the gap between the two teams. Shooting guard Carmel stepped up to knock down late freethrows and Chennai closed out on a blowout 88-72 victory.
Chennai Slam (Gopal 30pts 10rbs, Chukwunanu Agu 18pts 7asts 7stls, Arjun GK 12pts 10rbs) bt Pune Peshwas (Narender Grewal 32pts 11rbs, Gaurav Ohlan 21pts 10rbs, Arjun Mehta 4pts 7asts) 88-72 (17-21, 27-12, 18-15, 26-24)
Mumbai Challengers bt Delhi Capitals 75-69
After a tumultuous league stage, the top four teams in the competition were left to battle for the title. In the northern division, table toppers Delhi Capitals and winners of the playoff match, Mumbai Challengers, squared off in the first semifinal of a best-of-three series.
Both teams began the game running their offense through the big men. Delhi Capitals centre Ramesh achieved good paint position down low to score. Mumbai forward Nikhil Dahiya’s mid-range game was strong, scoring the first 4 of his team’s points. Shooting guard Ranbir Singh continued from where he left off in the playoff game, nailing his first triple attempt early. Veteran forward Jagdeep Bains stretched the floor for Mumbai in the first half, draining a couple of triples from the top of the key. On the other end, Ramesh kept plugging away in the post to give Delhi a slim lead at the end of the first quarter 18 to 16.
In the second quarter, Mumbai’s Jagdeep and Ranbir took over the game scoring at will against the Delhi defense. Jagdeep used his size and skill, while Ranbir used his athleticism to penetrate and finish in the paint. Having the ability to knock down shots from long range as well, Delhi found these two players a nightmare to guard. A couple of late strikes, including a triple, from backup guard Brar Dildar off the bench helped Mumbai outscore Delhi 27 to 14 in the second quarter.
Down by 11 points entering the second half, Delhi began to cut down Mumbai’s lead with their forwards contributing buckets. Ramesh (11 points) continued to find success in the post, while frontcourt mate Smithin Setu was able to create space to knock down his mid-range jumpers. Guard Vinay Kaushik added to his team’s scoring with another long-range shot in the third period. Jagdeep and centre Gagandeep kept the boat afloat for Mumbai combining to score almost all of their team’s third quarter buckets. Mumbai’s strong paint presence was a game-changer today with 46 of their team’s points coming in the paint compared to only 22 paint points for Delhi. Delhi’s small lineup found it difficult to contain the Mumbai frontcourt through the game.
With Mumbai’s lead still in single digits at the end of the third quarter, Delhi had its sights set on a comeback. Vinay Kaushik led his team’s attack penetrating with force and continuing to hit from 3-point range. Delhi guard Ajay Singh came off the bench to ignite his team with a quick 7 points, including some acrobatic layups. But Mumbai had too many offensive weapons for Delhi to contain. Jagdeep Bains was a force to reckon with in the paint today muscling his way to the bucket. Nikhil Dahiya (14 points) stepped up in the final minutes, knocking down clutch turnaround jumpers to score 8 fourth quarter points.
Mumbai ended up clinching the first game of the series with a 75-69 victory. Jagdeep Bains received the player of the match honours, with a cash prize of INR 25000/-.
Mumbai Challengers (Jagdeep Bains 24pts, Ranbir Singh 14pts, Nikhil Dahiya 14pts, Gagandeep Singh 10pts 10rbs) bt Delhi Capitals (Vinay Kaushik 16pts 5asts, Smithin Setu 14pts, Ramesh 11pts, Ajay Singh 11pts) 75-69 (16-18, 27-14, 13-16, 19-21)
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.