By Siddarth Sharma, UBA Columnist
Chennai, 1st March, 2017: The second play in game of the day saw two teams from the South Division battle it out to make it to the semi-finals in Goa. Bengaluru Beast exchanged blows with Hyderbad Sky to eke out a 116-113 win with a nerve wracking finish. This match was the final contest of the UBA Season 4 in Chennai as the semi-finals would be held at the Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Indoor Stadium in Goa from 10th March.
The packed stadium nearly blew the roof off the building when Tamil actor and producer Suriya Sivakumar (Suriya) made his appearance to watch the contest. Kelly began the onslaught for Hyderabad with a step back jumper as he looked to carry the load for Hyderabad. Vishesh and Palpreet connected on a reverse alley-oop jam which brought the house down as Bengaluru raced out to a 16-6 lead with 6 minutes left in the first. Vishesh and Kelly exchanged three pointers as Bengaluru led 21-13. The two stars on each team made their intentions clear as each looked to propel their teams to the promised land. A lot of possessions for Hyderabad reduced to Kelly desperately looking to create something off the dribble. Kelly hit a three to bring Hyderabad within 25-21. At the end of the first quarter, Bengaluru held a slim 27-24 lead over Hyderabad. Vishesh and Palpreet scored 11 points each for Bengaluru in the first quarter.
In the opening minutes of the second quarter, the combination of Vishesh and Palpreet presented Hyderabad with a difficult conundrum as they struggled to find an answer to stop them. To their good fortune, Bengaluru seemed to have equal difficulty in figuring out how to limit Hyderabad’s looks from close to the rim. Bengaluru pushed their lead to double digits as they led 53-43 with 2:30 left in the second quarter. Mak’s three pointer trimmed that lead but Bengaluru showed an uncanny proclivity for finding good looks right at the rim as they worked the ball inside with vigour. At the end of the second quarter, Bengaluru led Hyderabad 60-53. Bengaluru were led by double digit points from their Big 3 of Vishesh, Solomon and Palpreet as they combined for 50 points in the first half. In contrast, Hyderabad had just one player in double figures as Kelly had 18 points in the first half. No other player had more than 5 shot attempts for Hyderabad as Kelly looked to spearhead their attack. Hyderabad shot 48% from the field while Bengaluru shot a remarkable 61% from the field, making 21 of their 28 attempts from inside the arc. Hyderabad shot 6-7 from three point range which helped them stay in the game.
Mahesh scored five quick points in the opening minutes of the third quarter to lead Hyderabad’s charge. Boskailo’s putback brought Hyderabad within 74-68 and Joginder’s three decreased the lead to 74-71. Kelly drew a couple of charges on Bengaluru as the importance of each possession became paramount. For Bengaluru, Vishesh blew up in the third quarter as he had 17 points in the third quarter alone. At the end of the third quarter, Bengaluru led Hyderabad 83-79.
The fourth quarter resembled a couple of boxers exchanging punches as both teams traded buckets relentlessly. For Bengaluru, Vishesh seemed determined to ensure that Bengaluru would not go down without a fight as he answered nearly every basket by Hyderabad by driving right to the rim regardless of who was guarding him. Kelly started the fourth quarter with an and-one play, to which Vishesh responded with a layup. Hyderabad tied the game on Joginder’s three pointer, to which Vishesh of course responded the best way he knows: with a step through layup. Joginder tied the game at 87 with 7:30 left in the game, and Vishesh answered by banking in one from up close. One had to wonder how long he could keep it up. Solomon rose to the challenge and converted an and-one play for Bengaluru, following which Vishesh converted on yet another layup. Mahipal tied the game at 94, Vishesh converted on a layup and Joginder hit a three to give Hyderabad a 99-98 lead with less than 4 minutes left in the game. Vishesh’s layup gave Bengaluru a 101-99 lead, and Mak responded with an and-one play to give Hyderabad a one point lead. Vishesh got 2 right back from the line, and Kelly snatched two right back from the line. Vishesh’s next free throws gave Bengaluru a 106-104 lead, and Kelly responded by converting on an and-one play to give Hyderabad a 107-106 lead. Vishesh assisted Solomon on a three pointer and Kelly got a three right back as Hyderabad led Bengaluru 110-109 with 42 seconds left with Vishesh on the line. He hit one free throw and Palpreet converted on a putback off the miss on the second to give Bengaluru a 112-110 lead. Vishesh’s assist to Palpreet gave them a 114-110 lead. Kelly hit a three to bring Hyderabad within 114-113 with 19 seconds left. Bengaluru inbounded the ball to Raghuram who raced in for a layup and Bengaluru were able to pull away with a win. Vishesh also added 5 rebounds and 11 assists in a performance for the ages to lead Bengaluru.
Players of the Game: Chris Solomon (International), Vishesh Bhriguvanshi (Indian)
Bengaluru Beast (Vishesh Bhriguvanshi 57 pts, Palpreet Brar 27 pts, Chris Solomon 17 pts) bt 116-113 Hyderabad Sky (Tevin Kelly 40 pts, Mak Boskailo 16 pts, Mahipal Singh 16 pts)