By Siddarth Sharma, UBA Columnist
Goa, 10th March, 2017: In the first game of the UBA North Division semi-finals best-of-three series, Mumbai Challengers raced behind a 43-point second quarter as they put on a scintillating display to defeat Punjab Steelers 128-114. The UBA Season 4 championship series is being played at the Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Stadium in Goa from 10-16 March, 2017.
Punjab started with a lineup of Ravi Bhardwaj, Akilan Pari, Rajveer, Dermaine Crockrell and Kaushal. They were playing without UBA Season 4 all-star forward Garry Gill who was out owing to an illness. They faced Mumbai Challengers' starting lineup of Jagdep Bains, Alex Scales, Jimmy Scroggins, Nikhil and Inderbir Gill.
Punjab took an early 8-4 lead to start the game behind six points from Kaushal. Scroggins was sticking to league's leading scorer Crockrell like glue, putting pressure on the rest of Punjab to put points on board. About halfway into the first quarter, Punjab led Mumbai 13-12. Punjab committed two unforced turnovers in a row to allow Mumbai to take a 16-13 lead. They fought back behind Crockrell's buzzer beater to tie the game at 25. He led Punjab with 12 points which was matched by Scoggins' 12 points.
Mumbai raced out to open the second quarter by going on a run to take a 33-27 lead in the first two minutes of the second quarter. Cockrell brought Punjab within 35-34 but Scales hit a pair of three pointers and converted on the break to help Mumbai take a 47-40 lead halfway into the second quarter. Two key cogs from both teams got into foul trouble as Jagdeep and Pari went to the bench with 3 fouls each. Scales caught fire in the second quarter, scoring 21 points in the second alone to help Mumbai take a 68-49 lead at halftime. Gill and Scroggins added 16 points each for Mumbai while Punjab were led by Cockrell's 23 points as no other player for Punjab scored in double figures in the first half.
Mumbai were in no mood to rest on their lead as they came out in the second half with a sense of purpose to extend their lead to 81-56 halfway in the third quarter as Scroggins attacked Punjab with relentless energy. He threw down a thunderous dunk as well, sending the crowd in a frenzy. Mumbai kept the pressure on even when their stars went to the bench as their bench stepped up behind inspired play from Prudhvi Reddy and Prasanna Venkatesh as the duo combined for 9 points and 4 assists in the third quarter. Mumbai held a commanding 99-74 lead at the end of the third quarter over Punjab.
Punjab started the fourth quarter with a sense of desperation by going on a 8-0 run. They cut Mumbai's lead to 105-92 in the first five minutes of the fourth. While the lead seemed insurmountable, Punjab did not give up as they were looking to carry some momentum for the next day's game which they would have to win to stay alive in the semifinal series. Their comeback came up short as Mumbai defeated Punjab 128-114.
Players of the Game: Jimmy Scroggins (International), Prudhvi Reddy (Indian)
Mumbai Challengers (Alex Scales 36 pts, Jimmy Scroggins 34 pts, Inderbir Gill 29 pts) be 128-114 Punjab Steelers (Dermaine Crockrell 50 pts, Ravi Bhardwaj 15 pts, Akilan Pari 11 pts)