Caledonia Gladiators brought home a loss from England’s North East as Newcastle Eagles came out with a 105-93 victory following a heated contest between the two Northernmost sides in the British Basketball League. Rickey McGill stood out for the hosts – hitting a 30 ball, while Patrick Whelan once again led Caledonia with 21 to his name on the scoresheet.

Gareth Murray’s men travelled to their nearest opponent, Newcastle Eagles, as they looked to pick up a hugely important game in the North East, aiming to earn bragging rights over Marc Steutel’s side, live on Sky Sports’ Friday night British Basketball League action.

Heading into the fixture, the sides had already faced off once before, at PlaySport in February where the Eagles picked up a 73-82 win after a fierce battle. Caledonia maintained the second-placed spot in the Championship table, with Newcastle sitting in seventh before the game – Gladiators looking to separate themselves from the pack, and Eagles hoping to maintain their spot in the Playoff picture and advance up the standings.

Prince Onwas got the ball rolling for Caledonia with a putback to start the ball game. Caledonia started inefficiently, hitting only two of their first seven shots, while Newcastle shot an impressive 5/6 (83%) in the first three minutes. The sides showed their eagerness to pick up a positive record in the head-to-head picture – Gladiators looking to tie it at 1-1, and Eagles hoping to advance to 2-0 on the season. Darius Defoe showed out from the offset – with six personal points and three rebounds in the first five minutes. Upon the media timeout, the Eagles looked impressive in front of their home crowd, leading 14-8, showing the visitors what they’re made of halfway through the first. For the remainder of the period, Newcastle continued in their lead – with Ward-Hibbert entering the court again for the first time since injury and dishing out two early assists. However, Caledonia, fighting back and going score-for-score stayed in the game, Eagles leading 19-24 after ten minutes.

A 6-0 run for the Tyneside squad took their advantage to 30-19 following a quick start from Larry Austin Jr. and Jordan Johnson who hit a three-pointer each. Both sides had picked up the pace massively as the intensity increased as a bucket-for-bucket battle was the showcase event in Newcastle. An offensive boost all around from Gareth Murray’s side brought them back within four after trailing by as many as 11, going on a 9-4 run before the media timeout – Eagles leading just 36-32. The sides went back and forth, with Newcastle’s lead increasing and decreasing on several occasions – Caledonia not giving up as they pushed the hosts. After ten minutes, Newcastle maintained control of the game, albeit with a slimmer lead than it was at times during the period. With the scores at 51-46, the sides headed to the locker rooms.

Turnovers told the story of the first half, Caledonia’s seven faced Newcastle’s three with the side from the North East taking care of the ball more to secure their advantage. Tajh Green and Lukas Palyza led their respective teams in the first 20, with 11 points apiece – the latter firing three-pointers in, with 9 points from beyond the arc.

The sides came out of the halftime break firing – going for 5 points each in the first two minutes – including a Whelan and Austin three-point exchange. Caledonia fought back into the game, in one that became a tough and intense physical battle – bringing the battle to a single-possession one at 58-56 halfway through the third. A converted and-one from ex-Glasgow Rock Jordan Johnson brought his side’s lead to seven. A Patrick Whelan lay-in, taking him to 12 points personal, that brought the lead back to four, forced a Marc Steutel timeout. Traded buckets from Pat Whelan and Larry Austin once again concluded the quarter, Eagles with an even smaller 74-71 lead as Caledonia closed in.

Newcastle would not give up their victory easily – four points from Scott Spencer opened the fourth and final quarter before ex-Eagle Kyle Johnson’s trip to the free-throw line gave Caledonia their first point. Moore and Whelan brought the game back to two, shortening the Eagles’ lead to 78-76 with two straight buckets. Clifton Moore’s subsequent three-ball miss stopped the team’s chance to take the lead before he made it up with a huge dunk and a layup a few minutes later. Two Rickey McGill threes cemented the Eagles’ confidence in crunch time in front of a high-energy Vertu Motors Arena before a Defoe layup took the hosts’ lead to 8 – forcing a timeout with four to play. Several misses from Caledonia all but confirmed an Eagles victory – with huge play needed to get back into it. Rickey McGill forced yet another timeout with a three proving to be a dagger in the Scottish fans’ hearts – sending the score to 95-86. With the best will in the world, it wasn’t to be for the Gladiators – who took home a frustrating loss following a Gareth Murray ejection late in the game, as the Eagles played out the rest of the outing, securing a 105-93 victory in the end, taking their win-loss record to 12-11 after 23 Championship games.

Patrick Whelan picked up the Gladiators’ MVP, with a strong all-round performance of 21 points, 5 rebounds, and 8 assists.

This Sunday, Caledonia welcome Manchester Giants and Leicester Riders in a men’s and women’s double-header. Join the action and get your tickets HERE!