By Siddarth Sharma, UBA Columnist
Chennai, 20th February, 2017: The Pune Peshwas defeated the Bengaluru Beast in a thrilling back and forth encounter with numerous lead changes as they came away with a 96-94 win. Bengaluru had come in this contest looking for their first win of the season as the match saw a battle of two stars who had captained India with Amritpal Singh of the Peshwas facing Vishesh Bhriguvanshi of the Beast.
Bengaluru started off with Chris Solomon, Visu Palani, Palpreet Brar, Vishesh Bhriguvanshi and Pratham Singh while Pune Peshwas started chose a starting lineup ofPierre Newton, Amritpal Singh, Siddhant Shinde, Ajinkya Mehta and Narender Grewal.
Before the game, Pune Coach Ram Kumar, who’s a Dhyan Chand awardee, had commented on how he was able to get his team to perform so well as a unit. He said, “I read players mind very well and I always tell them that it’s great you believe in yourself but I want you to believe in the team as you aren’t here for report cards. You’re here to win the championship.”
Pierre Newton has established himself as an all-round contributor, nearing averaging a triple double in the season thus far and he presented a conundrum to the opposition. To start the game, Amritpal displayed his range as he calmly sunk in a long two in a sign of things to come. He would go on to swish in two three pointers to beat the shot clock as he hurt the Bengaluru Beast on both ends of the floor. At the end of the first quarter, Bengaluru Beast found themselves with a slim 23-20 lead over the Pune Peshwas as Vishesh Bhriguvanshi had 5 points, 2 rebounds and 2 assists in the first quarter.
Bengaluru attacked Amritpal soon as he got his hands on the ball at the top of the key, resulting in a turnover. They knew they had to contain him for a chance to win. On the other hand, Pune forced Bengaluru into a shot clock violation as each team seemed intensely focused on stopping the other.
Amritpal displayed his range as he calmly sunk in a long two in a sign of things to come. He would go on to swish in two three pointers to beat the shot clock as he hurt the Bengaluru Beast on both ends of the floor. Pune again forced Bengaluru into settling for a long shot but Vishesh countered with a drive and pull up shot. Shinde got three right back in the other end as Palpreet showed his range swishing a long two. Amritpal ended the first quarter with a couple of powerful post moves inside, showing why he can be the most dominant inside presence in the country.
In the second quarter, Chris Solomon sustained a cramp in his foot in the opening minutes of the second quarter and walked gingerly off the court but he would be back to drop in a couple of quick three pointers. Vishesh followed it up by spinning like a top into the lane leading to an and-1 opportunity which he converted to tie the game. The teams exchanged leads as Pune led Bengaluru 46-43 at the half.
Bengaluru came out in the second quarter with a set play which almost resulted in an alley-oop for Palpreet. Visu drove in and gave Palpreet a beautiful dish leading to a dunk. Vishesh followed it up by spinning like a top into the lane leading to an and-1 opportunity which he converted to tie the game.
Amritpal pulled a veteran move on Manprit by drawing a foul on a rip-through move. Vishesh was gobbling up rebounds like candy and rushing the other way with every opportunity. Solomon came back into the game as Vishesh tied the game at 32. Solomon swished in a three and limped back down the court grimacing. Palpreet fouled Newton by absorbing a knee and had to sit to gather himself.
Kaif Zia gave Bengaluru a 37-36 lead with a jumper from the free throw line, but Gaurav Ohlan took the lead right back with a jumper. Narender was relatively quiet as the ball hadn’t come his way much, but he took full advantage of his limited touches by getting to the rim with purpose.
Siddhant Shinde had a productive first half as he notched up five assists along with a three pointer. Amritpal Singh already had a double double in the first half with 10 points and 10 boards while missing just one shot inside. Pierre Newton had 13 points in the first and Narender Grewal added 9. For Bengaluru, Vishesh was on pace for a triple double by the half with 10 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists. The teams exchanged leads as Pune led Bengaluru 46-43 at the half.
At halftime, Bengaluru’s coach Puneeth Suresh spoke about Pune’s onslaught, saying “Their shooting is clicking and they are shooting well from inside and outside. We have to put more pressure on the defensive end as a team.”
Amritpal opened the second half with a powerful slam and Vishesh answered right back with two. Amritpal displayed his range by beating the shot clock on a three as neither team could breathe easy. He followed it up with a one handed hammer of a dunk. To answer, Vishesh zipped the ball around to Chris Solomon and followed it with a deceptive crossover leading to an easy two. Palpreet made it his mission in life to get his hands on shots which sparked Bengaluru on the break. The end of the third quarter saw Pune Peshwas holding on to a 77-73 lead over the Bengaluru Bulls.
The fourth quarter started off with Bengaluru playing with a sense of urgency. But they did themselves no favours by missing their first few free throws. Amritpal found himself with the ball at the top of the key with shot clock winding out and he swished in another three. Bengaluru had a costly turnover which resulted in Pune getting an open three. They shot well as a team but Vishesh was determined to not go down without a fight as he got to the basket seemingly at will. Bengaluru had a shock as Palpreet landed awkwardly by twisting his ankle. Chris Solomon had a clutch three pointer with two minutes left in the fourth quarter to cut Pune Peshwas’ lead down to 94-92. Raghuram hit two clutch free throws to bring Bengaluru within 96-94. Bengaluru had a chance to tie the game but they were unable to hit the rim as the Pune Peshwas defeated the Bengaluru Beast 96-94.
Players of the game: Pierre Newton (International), Amritpal Singh (Indian)
Pune Peshwas (Pierre Newton 27 pts, Amritpal Singh 26 pts, Narender Grewal 16 pts) bt Bengaluru Beast 96-94 (Vishesh Bhriguvanshi 25 pts, Chris Solomon 18 pts, Palpreet Brar 14 pts)