By Siddarth Sharma, UBA Columnist
Chennai, 27th February 2017: Fielding their role players, Mumbai Challengers overcame a spirited effort from the Punjab Steelers to race ahead to a 102-94 win. Both teams chose to reduce the workload on some of their star players to preserve them for the coming games as the playoff picture was already decided for both teams. Mumbai were leading the North Division and Punjab had qualified for a play-in game.
Mumbai started with a lineup of Prasanna Venkatesh, Prudhvi Reddy, Nikhil Kumar, Dildar Singh and Jeevenathan. They faced Punjab Steelers’ lineup of Garry Gill, Irakoze Bryant, Sagar Joshi, Akilan Pari and Kaushal Kumar.
The game started off with both teams digging their heels on defence. The first quarter saw the Punjab Steelers capitalize on increased shot attempts as they made 10 field goals on 19 attempts while Mumbai made 6 field goals on 14 attempts. Both teams attempted a combined 21 free throws in the first quarter. Punjab was led by 9 points from Ravi Bhardwaj and 7 from Taj Sandhu. At the end of the first quarter, Punjab led Mumbai 28-21.
While the international players were sitting out in this contest, there was a lot of end to end action as both teams looked to score in the open court. There were a number of players on the floor who had represented India as well. The second quarter saw the Mumbai Challengers mount a comeback as they converted 11 field goal attempts while restricting Punjab to 6 conversions from the field. At halftime, Mumbai raced ahead to a 51-41 lead at halftime as Taj and Ravi combined for 21 points at halftime. Mumbai were led by 17 points from Prudhvi Reddy.
Punjab Steelers came out of halftime with an increased sense of aggression led by Ravi Bhardwaj as he completed the quarter with 21 points, 2 steals and 8 rebounds. By the end of the third quarter, Mumbai had four players in double figures as Prudhvi, Inderbir, Nikhil, and Dildar combined for 53 points. Mumbai held on to a slim 73-70 lead at the end of the third quarter. While Jimmy Scroggins didn’t play in this game, he gave the fans something to remember as he distributed signed pictures to the enthusiastic fans in the stands.
The game came right down to the wire as both teams attacked with relentless aggression. The final minutes presented a conundrum for Punjab as Inderbir Gill was the only international star on the floor, and he did an excellent job of involving his teammates. He finished with 20 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists to lead his team to a tough-fought win over the Punjab Steelers as Mumbai pulled away to a 102-94 win. Mumbai outrebounded Punjab 39-33 and they also had 24 assists while Punjab had just 15. The game saw a number of players step up as four players finished in double figures for both teams. Two players finished with double doubles as Ravi Bhardwaj finished with 27 points and 10 rebounds for Punjab and Nikhil Kumar finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds for Mumbai.
Players of the game: Inderbir Gill (International), Nikhil Kumar (Indian)
Mumbai Challengers (Nikhil Kumar 22 pts, Prudhvi Reddy 22 pts, Inderbir Gill 20 pts) bt Punjab Steelers 102-94 (Ravi Bhardwaj 27, Akhilesh Kumar 16, Taj Sandhu 12pts)