In a dogfight of a match, the Caledonia Gladiators edge out the Leicester Riders 89-81!
Dominant performances from both sides of the ball on both offence and defence but it was the Caledonia Gladiators who won behind David Sloan’s 36-point performance.
The Gladiators were out for revenge as they looked to avenge the shortcomings of the doubleheader in the 2021-22 BBL Championships semi-finals against the Leicester Riders, and they have done exactly that tonight.
With this win, Caledonia move to a 2-2 record in the standings after four games played with our opponents dropping to 2-3 in their five games.
Jumping to the action now, Jeremiah Bailey won the tip-off and Ali Fraser opened his account with a long-two before Nelson-Henry tied it up with an easy lay-up.
Both sides played tenacious defence, constantly matching the offence they were taking in the first quarter, and with that, no team got ahead by more than a possession other than once with 2:06 left when Hencer knocked one down from downtown to make it four, but that was quickly eradicated.
Absolutely nothing separating the sides after the opening 10 minutes with the score being 18-18.
Bowman got the first bucket of the second period but good ol’ reliable Fraser Malcolm tied that up swiftly before knocking down a three to take the lead.
The second half saw an increase in scoring but the defence was still there, Bailey got two steals within 20 seconds of each other, one of which was converted into a bucket. Hencer also got a steal and an offensive rebound off a Sloan miss on the same play as Hencer grabbed a lay-up.
The buzzer chimed for the end of the first half on a Sloan missed three but that meant nothing as the man was already in double figures for scoring 10 points.
Sloan boasted 10 points on 4/9 (44%) from the field, Hencer, a pleasant surprise, had eight for the Gladiators with two made three-pointers, three rebounds and a clutch steal.
“A dogfight, both teams going back and forward,” said commentator and franchise legend Kieron Achara when describing this game at half-time, and he wasn’t lying. The combined total rebounds for the game at this stage was 35, 21 belonging to the Gladiators, both teams getting their hands dirty, grabbing rebounds, forcing turnovers and getting numbers on the board.
Loving knocked down a midrange jumper to open up the scoring for the Riders in the second half just six seconds in but after a Malcolm jumper and an Adams layup, the Gladiators finally got their lead back, extended to four after Adams knocked down a three.
Come to the end of the third period, the Riders actually extended their lead by one. A team the Gladiators know a lot about with past scuffles, the travelling side wasn’t going down without a fight – but neither was Caledonia.
Tape slammed it home to cut it down to two before the end of the third.
With the score now at 57-59 in favour of our visitors, the margin may be small but the mountain was big.
Back-to-back threes from Adams and Sloan at the start of the fourth quarter got the lead back in the hands of the Gladiators by one, and it would struggle to get past that in the coming minutes, with the Riders remaining resilient, they made it really hard for the home side to stay ahead.
With 2:38 left on the clock, Whelan hit a three to shift the energy back the way of Leicester but Sloan, the MVP knocked down a three of his own to take back the grasp of the game and this is where the Gladiators ran away with it.
Adams then hit a two, Tape with a fadeaway jumper to ice the game at a six-point lead – the shot that Kieron Achara said was the game-winning shot – then Sloan knocked down four free throws to seal an emphatic W at home.
Coming up short, the Riders were the more efficient team, they had a better two-point percentage (56%), free throw percentage (84%) and overall field goal percentage (50%).
“The dogfight” on the glass ended up at 35-28 in favour of the Gladiators, as NBA star Kawhi Leonard famously once said, “board man gets paid” and the Gladiators get paid in the form of a hard-fought W!
As stated earlier, the MVP of the game was David Sloan with a massive 36 points to his name with 7-11 (63%) from two-pointers and 5/10 (50%) from downtown.
With this game under our belts, you can next catch the Gladiators away from home on the 29th of October against the Bristol Flyers at the SGS College Arena!
Written by: Daniel Gilfoyle – @DGJournalism_ on Twitter!