By Siddarth Sharma, UBA Columnist
Chennai, 1st March 2017: The North Division play-in game saw a spirited battle between Delhi Capitals and Punjab Steelers as Crockrell’s 50 points led Punjab over Delhi for a place in the semi-finals. This marked the final day of the UBA Season 4 matches in Chennai, as the semi-final matches would be played out in Goa from 10th March at the Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Indoor Stadium.
Punjab started with a lineup of Dermaine Crockrell , Garry Gill , Akilan Pari, Kaushal and Rajveer Singh. Delhi's starring five included Ronald March, Vinay Kaushik, Anil, Ajay Pratap and Smithin Settu.
This match saw a fight between the regular season scoring leader in Crockrell and the UBA scoring record holder in March.
Delhi started off with a layup from Ronald March, presenting an ominous sign for Punjab if he heated up. Garry opened up the scoring for Punjab with two quick buckets up close, and Crockrell was quick to hit a three pointer and follow it with a slam dunk on the break as Punjab took a 9-2 lead. Crockrell spent most of his time up in the air as he had a couple of thunderous dunks and a huge block in the first quarter. Punjab raced out to a 19-8 lead before March hit a three pointer to reduce the deficit. At the end of the first quarter, Punjab led Delhi 25-15, powered by 10 points from Crockrell and 8 from Rajveer. Delhi was led by 7 points from March. Punjab out-rebounded Delhi 12-8 and they also forced Delhi into 7 turnovers while committing 4 themselves. Ajay had to sit out the rest of the game with a leg injury.
March started the second quarter by converting on an and-one play and Kaushal answered back with a bank shot. Delhi got a couple on the break and Bek converted on a three point attempt to bring them within 30-23. Crockrell euro-stepped into the lane for two and March answered back with a layup of his own. Ravi hit a three pointer over the outstretched arms of Amjyot and the latter answered with a two handed dunk. Crockrell gave Punjab a 42-37 lead on an and-one play, but Delhi fought back as Vinay streaked for a layup to tie the game at 42. Crockrell and Vinay got into an end to end duel as they exchanged baskets. At halftime, Punjab led Delhi 46-44. Crockrell had 19 points at the half to lead all scorers while no other player scored in double figures for them, although Rajveer and Garry had 8 points each.
Ronald March twisted his ankle on the first play of the second half and had to sit out for most of the quarter. Amjyot stepped up in his absence to keep Delhi in the game. Akilan Pari converted an and-one play to extend Punjab’s lead to 51-46 and Crockrell put the pressure on Delhi with five quick points but Amjyot answered with two from the line to bring Delhi within 56-50. He came alive in the third quarter as he powered his way to the lane for multiple conversions. At the end of the third quarter, Punjab held on to a slim 71-69 lead over Delhi.
To start the fourth, Bryan and Anil exchanged threes as Punjab found themselves holding on to a 78-72 lead with 8 minutes left in the game. Amjyot’s inspired play helped Delhi trim the lead as the game came right down to the final minutes with Punjab holding on to an 89-87 lead with 2:09 left in the game. Rajveer hit a clutch three for Punjab to extend their lead, Crockrell added two from the line and Gill flew for a dunk to extend Punjab’s lead to 96-87 as they held on to a 102-92 win for a place in the semi-finals in Goa. Crockrell also added 8 rebounds and 4 assists to his 50 point masterpiece as he came through for Punjab.
Players of the Game: Dermaine Crockrell (International), Irakoze Bryan (Indian)
Punjab Steelers (Dermaine Crockrell 50 pts, Rajveer Singh 13 pts, Garry Gill 11 pts) bt 102-92 Delhi Capitals (Amjyot Singh Gill 34 pts, Ronald March 19 pts, Vinay Kaushik 14 pts)