Caledonia Gladiators 80 Cheshire Phoenix 84

Written by Sam Scouller

The Caledonia Gladiators signed off for the 2022-23 season with an unfortunate 80-84 loss to the Cheshire Phoenix in the second leg of the BBL playoff quarter finals.

The sides faced off after a 104-86 victory for the Phoenix at the Cheshire Oaks Arena the night before. There was a lot of hype in the build up to the game as the sides who met in the unforgettable BBL Trophy final prepared to battle it out for a playoff semi-final position.

Caledonia started the game with a starting five of David Sloan, Al Durham, Princeton Onwas, Jeremiah Bailey and Fahro Alihodzic. Cheshire started with Larry Austin, Amorie Archibald, Marcus Evans, Jamell Anderson, David Ulph on the court.

Cheshire started off the game with a driven layup from Ulph after a Gladiators turnover at half-court. David Sloan responded quickly though for Caledonia as he slammed a three-pointer to put his side ahead. It was a close quarter the whole way through, but it was the Gladiators who remained on top throughout as contributions from Onwas and Durham at both ends led the hosts to a 23-19 lead by the end.

A two-point jump shot from Bailey started off the second quarter well for Gareth Murray’s side, but Cheshire still managed to tie the game at 25 points. After a sequence of trading points, Cheshire took a three-point lead thanks to Evans. Anderson later expanded the Phoenix’s lead with a three-point shot from the corner. Durham and Alihodzic produced a response for the hosts though as they brought the game back to within one at 39-40 at the end of the half.

The Gladiators continued to pick up some crucial points into the fourth quarter as Onwas landed two free throws to give the hosts the lead. Durham then put Caledonia ahead by three with an electrifying three-point jump shot. Cheshire soon regained control though as Maceo Jack’s two three pointers gave Ben Thomas’ side an eight-point advantage at 54-62. The Phoenix headed into the fourth quarter with a 64-56 lead, leaving the dark blues with a lot of work to do in the final 10 minutes.

The fourth quarter started well for the Scots as Durham led them to tie the game at 68. Johnny Bunyan gave Caledonia the lead shortly after with a nothing but net three-pointer before Jack responded to tie it at 71. Durham restored the lead for the Glasgow-based side with a highlight reel-worthy one-handed dunk over the Cheshire defence. Despite impressive efforts across the court from Caledonia, the Phoenix found themselves in front thanks to an Evans three-pointer. The yellows held onto that lead until the final buzzer as they closed out an 80-84 victory on the night and a 166-188 on aggregate. Al Durham picked up the MVP award for the Gladiators after recording an impressive 28 points in the game.

The result means that the BBL Caledonia Gladiators’ season has come to an end as they sign off for the final time from the Emirates Arena and for the final time with mascot Rocky.