By Siddarth Sharma, UBA Columnist
Goa, 11th March 2017: The UBA North Division semi-final best of three series was settled in two games as Mumbai Challengers eliminated Punjab Steelers 120-104.
The UBA Season 4 championship series is being played at the Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Stadium in Goa from 10-16 March, 2017. Mumbai started off with a lineup of Jagdeep Bains, Inderbir Gill, Jimmy Scroggins, Nikhil and Jimmy Scroggins. They faced Punjab’s starting five of Dermaine Crockrell, Bryan, Akilan Pari, Akhilesh and Kaushal.
Mumbai started the game with express intention to punch a ticket to the finals as they scored 9 quick points. Crockrell rose to the challenge byscoring 13 points in a hurry and pulling Punjab up 17-14 at the halfway mark of the quarter. Punjab ended the first quarter with a 32-31 lead behind 24 points from Crockrell. Mumbai were powered by 25 combined points from Scales and Scroggins. Punjab moved the ball around better in the first as they had 9 assists as a team compared to 3 for Mumbai.
In the first game of this series, Mumbai had exploded in the second quarter for 43 points. Punjab was wary of their run and looked to capitalize on good looks inside to keep the game close. Mumbai held a 51-48 lead about halfway into the second quarter as Inderbir came alive in the quarter to pressure Punjab. Punjab ended the second quarter with a buzzer beater from Bryan as Mumbai led Punjab 63-61 at the end of the first half. While Punjab had 18 first half assists to 11 of Mumbai, they also turned the ball over 10 times compared to Mumbai’s 5 turnovers.
The third quarter opened with Mumbai pressuring Punjab into missing a number of shots. They pushed the pace in the open court to extend their lead to 77-70 at the halfway mark in the third quarter. Crockrell picked up his fourth foul late in the quarter and had to go to the bench. With him on the bench, Scroggins powered Mumbai to extend their lead to 14 points as Punjab called a timeout to halt Mumbai’s momentum. There was no stopping Mumbai as they ended the third quarter leading Punjab 93-76.
UBA India Chairman and CEO Tommy Fisher joined in at halftime, speaking about the UBA he said “I have high hopes from the league, it’s very exciting and the live television is great to watch. There’s always room for improvement and we’ll work on that. While the players here are friends off the court, they are extremely competitive on the court. The trophy is something all players want as they don’t want to be second. The sportsmanship has been great as well and I’m really proud of the boys.”
Punjab’s season was inching to an end as Mumbai began to pull away in the fourth quarter. Mumbai had given up a 15 point lead to Punjab in the season for a loss and they were not about to repeat their mistake. Mumbai quickly jumped out to a 116-95 lead by methodically pursuing good looks and rested their starters. Their role players stepped up to the challenge as the lead was never threatened. Mumbai pulled away to eliminate Punjab 120-104 and reserve a spot in the UBA Season 4 finals series.
Players of the Game: Jimmy Scroggins (International), Jagdeep Bains (Indian)
Mumbai Challengers (Jimmy Scroggins 41pts, Alex Scales 33pts, Inderbir Gill 17pts) bt120-104 Punjab Steelers (Dermaine Crockrell48 pts, Akilan Pari 17pts, Ravi Bhardwaj 14 pts)