By Siddarth Sharma, UBA Columnist
Chennai, 24th February 2017: Chennai Slam hand the Pune Peshwas their first loss of the season as they fought back from a 13 point deficit to win 88-84. Pune started off with a lineup of Pierre Newton, Siddhant Shinde, Amritpal Singh, Narender Grewal and Ajinkya Mehta. Chennai fielded Agu, Ram Kumar, Cammy, Rikin Pethani and Jairam Jat. This match saw two of India’s finest coaches going up against each other as Pune’s Ram Kumar faced Chennai’s Prasanna Jayasankar in an entertaining back and forth encounter.
Amritpal started off by sinking a three pointer, giving the defence few options to contain him. He was quick to block a shot on the other end which led to a bucket by Narender in transition. Cammy answered for Chennai with a wide open three pointer. Ram Kumar added a long jumper for Chennai as they found themselves trailing 8-7 with 6 minutes left in the first. Amritpal added seven points in a hurry and swatted a couple. Chennai hit another three as Jairam found himself with space outside. Pune responded with a pair of threes as they raced out to an 18-12 lead with 3:30 left in the first quarter. Pune found themselves leading the Chennai Slam 24-16 at the end of the first quarter, led by Amritpal’s 12 points, 2 rebounds and 2 blocks. Jairam led Chennai with 7 points. Chennai shot 7-25 in the first while Pune shot 8-14.
The second quarter started with Amritpal softly sinking a close jumper. Chennai were moving the ball around the perimeter with vigour but their forays inside were deterred by the presence of Amritpal. Pierre Newton came out aggressive in the second as he got to the rim for difficult finishes. Amritpal assisted Newton on consecutive possessions for baskets up close to extend Pune’s lead to 35-25 with 5:14 left in the second quarter. The second quarter saw Chennai drive in and kick the ball out for long range attempts while Pune utilized Amritpal’s gravity to find good looks. At halftime, Pune held on to a slim 40-36 lead over Chennai. They were led by Amritpal’s 14 points and Newton’s 10. Pune also held Agu scoreless as he had just 4 attempts in the first half.
Chennai started the second half with a close jumper from Rikin while Shinde got a couple of steals to help Pune race to a 46-38 lead. Agu finally got on the scoresheet with a three pointer and Narender answered by converting a difficult drive inside. Vignesh brought Chennai to within one with a three pointer and Chennai finally took a 50-49 lead on Rikin’s conversion inside. Pune called a timeout and Rikin quickly picked up two fouls right after. Pune took the lead off Arshpreet’s three pointer and Ram snatched it right back for Chennai as the two teams exchanged leads. Jairam’s three gave Chennai a 57-53 lead. Vignesh added a three and Newton answered by getting to the line and converting one of two attempts. Chennai added four points in the final seconds of the quarter as they led Pune 68-58 going in to the fourth quarter.
Amritpal came out strong in the fourth quarter as he attacked the basked for four quick points. Rikin answered him on the other end and Newton got two of his own as the teams went back and forth. Chennai called a timeout as Pune cut the lead to 74-68 off a Narender attempt from up close. A couple of quick buckets by Cammy forced Pune to call a timeout as Chennai extended their lead to 83-73. Newton fought back hard with a pair of buckets as Pune fought back to cut the lead to 86-82. Amritpal added two off a turnaround post move to bring Pune within 86-84. Ultimately, it wasn’t enough as Chennai defeated Pune for their first loss of the season.
Players of the game: Agu (International) Rikin Pethani (Indian)
Chennai Slam (Cammy 19 pts, Rikin Pethani 16 pts, Jairam Jat 16 pts) bt Pune Peshwas 88-84 (Pierre Newton 30 pts, Amritpal Singh 24 pts, Narender Grewal 14 pts)