By Siddarth Sharma, UBA Columnist
Chennai, 23rd February 2017: Haryana Gold took on the Punjab Steelers as they looked for their very first win of the season. Haryana started off with a lineup of Yadwinder Singh, Jaskaran, De’Sean Mattox, Eban Hyams and Shane Jayamanne. Punjab’s starting lineup included Akilan Pari, Rajveer, Dermaine Crockrell, Kaushal, and Garry Gill.
Punjab Steelers were coming off an inspiring 125-123 win against Mumbai Challengers as they had rallied from a 15 point deficit behind Dermaine Crockrell’s UBA record-tying 51 point effort. The Northern division had three teams with 2-1 records and the coming games would see the teams looking to separate themselves from the pack. Eban came in with 11 steals in the first three games while averaging 12.5 points per game and he would play a major factor in this one with his clutch play down the stretch.
Prior to the game, Punjab’s coach Aditya Biswas had stressed over the importance of keeping Garry Gill on the floor as he was limited by foul trouble in their previous match. He said, “I’ve gone over game tape with Garry and pointed out his mistakes, I told him to be careful in first few quarters then go all out in the final quarter.”
Punjab won the tip off and both teams exchanged empty possessions to start the game. Yadwinder Singh hit the first basket for Haryana off a pretty spin move leading to a jumper and Crockrell got four points right back on layups for Punjab. Punjab seemed to be looking for any opportunity to push the pace as Akilan Pari and Crockrell seemed to fly in the open court. Prakash Mishra showed his range from downtown as he calmly hit his first three of the game for Haryana. The pace of Punjab extended to their frontcourt as Garry did a good job of pressuring Haryana in transition. The first quarter was a low scoring affair as Punjab led Haryana 16-15. They were led by 7 points from Crockrell.
Eban assisted Birender Singh to start off the second quarter for Haryana. Crockrell answered with a double-clutch layup. Prakash hit nothing but net with a long jumper as Haryana took a 22-18 lead. Crockrell hit his first three pointer to bring Punjab within one and hit another jumper soon after in answer to Prakash’s fadeaway jumper. Haryana seemed to click on both ends as they pressured Punjab to commit a shot clock violation. As usual, Crockrell came to Punjab’s rescue with flying drives inside. Haryana had an answer in Prakash who seemed to score at will with his springy jumpshot and he extended Haryana’s lead to 38-28 off a couple of attempts at the free throw line. Crockrell got his 21st point in the open floor and Yadwinder answered with a powerful drive inside. He showed why he’s one of India’s greatest all-round talents as he drew a charge on the other end.
At the end of the first half, Haryana led Punjab 40-32. They were led by Prakash Mishra’s 17 points and Eban Hyams’ 10 points, 7 rebounds and 2 assists. Crockrell was the only player from Punjab to score in the second quarter.
Haryana’s coach Aaditya had spoken about involving De’Sean Mattox at the half to Ridhima Pathak. He said “Today Mattox is playing the role of a facilitator. We’ll look to just counter whatever Punjab throw at us.” Punjab’s coach Aditya spoke of his team trailing at the half, saying “Our gameplan hasn’t worked in first half, we’lll make it work in second. We need to play with the intensity we showed against Mumbai.”
Yadwinder started the second half with a powerful move inside to give Haryana a ten point lead. Haryana raced off to increase their lead to 52-34 as Punjab called a timeout to halt their momentum. De’Sean Mattox was without a shot attempt in the first half and he started the second by aggressively attacking the rim to help fuel the run. Crockrell responded for Punjab with a couple of trips to the free throw line. Prakash picked up a couple of fouls while trying to draw a charge and he had to go to the bench with four fouls with 2:30 left in the third quarter. Right on cue, Crockrell and Pari connected in the open floor for two and Crockrell brought them within ten from the line. Garry added three points on an and-one play and at the end of the third quarter, Haryana led Punjab 59-50. They had four players in double figures through three quarters as Prakash Mishra, Jaskaran, Eban Hyams and Yadwinder Singh combined for 48 points through three quarters.
Ravi started off the fourth quarter for Punjab with a turnaround jumper. The size of Jaskaran and aggression of Yadwinder proved to be a handful for Punjab to handle as the duo feasted in the paint all night. Crockrell wasn’t ready to throw in the towel as he hit a three, hit free throws, scored off an alley-oop and hit another pair of free throw to bring Punjab to within one with Punjab trailing 67-66. Eban Hyams answered with a strong turnaround post move to give Haryana a 69-66 lead. Crockrell hit a three to bring Punjab within 71-69 but Prakash answered with a soft jumper inside. Crockrell tried to answer from downtown on the ensuing possessions but was unable to connect and Haryana pulled away for their first win.
Players of the game: Dermaine Crockrell (Punjab)(International), Prakash Mishra (Indian)
Haryana Gold (Prakash Mishra 20 pts, Jaskaran 16 pts, Eban Hyams 12 pts) bt Punjab Steelers 77-71 (Dermaine Crockrell 45 pts, Ravi Bhardwaj 11 pts, Akilan Pari 6 pts)