UBA Pro Basketball League Season 2: Mumbai Challengers qualify for semis with thrilling win over Punjab Steelers
The United Basketball Alliance (UBA) Pro Basketball League Season 2 witnessed exciting playoffs action today at the Gachibowli Indoor Stadium in Hyderabad. Mumbai Challengers came from behind to beat Punjab Steelers 78-76 and qualify to the semifinals as the second placed team from the north division.
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.”
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 the 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 on to 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 free throw 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 free throws to help Mumbai regain their lead. Centre Bhardwaj manages to tie the game again making one out of two free throws after getting hacked. With the game tied at 76 apiece, 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)
Late evening result from 26th March: 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 Begnaluru’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)