By Siddarth Sharma, UBA Columnist
Chennai, 21st February, 2017: Punjab Steelers fight back from a 15 point deficit behind Dermaine Crockrell’s UBA record tying 51 point effort and defeat Mumbai Challengers in a thrilling encounter which went right down to the wire. Rajveer started things off for Punjab with a three and former NBA player Alex Scales answered back with a strong drive inside for two and one from the line. Mumbai may have bigger names, but Crockrell’s pace enabled Punjab to push the pace and get shots before the defence could get set. While Mumbai had jumped out to a 19-12 lead, Dermaine Crockrell’s 14 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals enabled Punjab to fight back to finish the first quarter trailing 27-26.
Akilan Pari started off the second quarter with a pair of long jumpers as Jimmy Scroggins answered right back with a three pointer for Mumbai. Inderbir Gill. They had three players in double figures as the trio of Jimmy Scroggins, Alex Scales and Inderbir Gill combined for 46 points. For Punjab, Dermaine Crockrell led the way with 22 points and Taj Sadhu added 12. No other player had double digits in points for Punjab. Mumbai got to the free throw line 25 times in the first half alone.
The third quarter saw Gary Gill pick up his fourth foul just 8 seconds in the third quarter and went promptly to the bench. Ravi stepped up and swished in a three pointer from the corner. Crockrell added to his tally in the open floor with a quick drive. Mumbai kept a double digit lead behind their forays in transition. At the end of the third quarter, Mumbai found themselves leading 98-87. Dermaine Crockrell had 37 points along with 6 rebounds and 4 assists through three quarters.
Crockrell started the fourth quarter with five quick points and he added three more on an and-one play to bring Punjab within 102-97. Inderbir, Scroggins and Scales each scored in the open court and Prasanna Venkatesh added three to extend Mumbai’s lead to 111-97 in a matter of two minutes. Punjab answered with two three pointers to make it 111-103. He added two free throws to bring Punjab within 117-111. Rajveer added two for Punjab to make it a four point deficit and Punjab got two more in the open floor bringing the deficit to two. Akilan Pari tied the game at 119 for Punjab. Gary Gill gave Punjab a 121-120 lead with less than 2 minutes in the game. Alex Scales answered right back to give Mumbai the lead but Rajveer tied it right back at 123 each with 38 seconds left in the game.
The finawas dramatic on a Shakespearean scale as Dermaine Crockrell gave Punjab the lead with a stepback jumper and stole the ball on the following possession from money other than Alex Scales to give Punjab the win for an incredible comeback. He collapsed on the floor, overcome with emotion as the clock ran out. Afterwards, he dedicated the win to his recently deceased brother and his mother in a tearful post game interview. This contest showed the best of what the sport of basketball is all about.
Players of the Game: Dermaine Crockrell (International) Rajveer (Indian)
Punjab Steelers (Dermaine Crockrell 51 pts, Rajveer 15, Gary Gill 12) bt Mumbai Challengers 125-123 (Alex Scales 33 pts, Jimmy Scroggins 33 pts, Inderbir Gill 27 pts)