UBA Pro Basketball League: Punjab Steelers upset defending champions Delhi Capitals 82-73
Punjab Steelers stole the Delhi Capitals thunder as they beat the defending champions 82-73 in the UBA Pro Basketball League Season-3 at the Balewadi Sports Complex here on Friday. Akhilesh Kumar emerged as the player of the hour for Punjab Steelers as he scored 26 points, most of them coming off free throws.
Punjab Steelers were quick, finishing the first quarter, three points ahead of their rivals. The quarter, which saw fouls from both sides and a number of free throws, ended with Punjab leading 24-21.
Delhi Capitals started the second quarter on the right note, and turned the deficit in no time. Like the first quarter, the second quarter was also dominated by a lot of fouls, with both teams struggling to gain any rhythm or momentum. Capitals took a momentary lead, before Steelers struck back.
A superb three-pointer from Rajveer Singh in the dying seconds allowed the Steelers to lead by four points (41-37). Akhilesh Kumar alone had scored 13 points from 17 free throws for the Steelers by half-time. The first half saw a total of 40 free throws taken, accounting for the high foul count.
The Delhi boys fought back in the third quarter, with Vinay Kaushik leading the way. Kaushik, last season’s MVP award winner, came up with some strong and aggressive field goals which allowed the Delhi Capitals to erase the deficit and take the lead. Some smart two-pointers from Akhilesh kept the Steelers in the game, but Capitals finished the penultimate quarter of the game at 57-55.
The final quarter was played at a good pace, with the lead switching from one team to another on more than one occasion. Harmandeep Singh and Akhilesh Kumar came up with quality field goals to give Steelers a 70-67 lead with a little over four minutes to play.
Steelers added four more points in quick succession, with Akhilesh’s clever move earning him another two points, as his team opened up a sizable lead. Harmandeep’s two-pointer took the Steelers lead to eight points, and that proved to be a bit too much for the defending champions.
While talking to Sportskeeda after the historic win, coach Gurkipal Singh said, “We beat the defending champions. The whole team is on could nine. We couldn’t ask for a better start.” Punjab as a team prepared well keeping in the mind the team they were going to face at their inaugural match.
“I am happy to see that they performed as team. Everyone chipped in. Hope we continue this momentum,” he adds. The coach was in awe of the international player Ryan, who stole the limelight according to him. “As per me, he gave us several changes to win. That was the turning point of the match”.
Punjab Steelers (Akhilesh Kumar 26pts, Amritpal Singh 20pts, Gurvinder Singh 14pts) bt Delhi Capitals (Vinay 27pts, Ramesh 10pts) (24-21, 41-35, 55-57, 82-73)