Following an impressive home European debut vs Polish side, Anwil Włocławek, it was this time the Gladiators’ turn to head on the road to Poland as the sides battled it out in FIBA Europe Cup action. Heading into the game, a win would be essential for Caledonia to maintain any chance of advancing to the second round, if they also won next week at home vs Bilbao. Anwil, on the other hand, could advance on the night with a win of four points or more. Bilbao would also automatically advance with an Anwil win.
To open the outing, after an Anwil-won tip-off, it was Caledonia’s captain Alihodzic who got off to a flying start, scoring the game’s first two points. Following on, Anwil matched him with a three of their own via their captain Jakub Garbacz, who fouled out in the reverse fixture. The hosts started off the best, with a 9-2 advantage in the opening two minutes before a Pat Whelan layup to stop the run, not dissimilar to Caledonia’s start vs Sheffield at the weekend. Despite Anwil’s strong start, Gareth Murray’s side fought back into the game around halfway through the quarter, reducing the hosts’ lead to 2 at one point. After ten minutes played, it was the Poles who had made the most of their start, leading 21-14, with a last-second three-pointer called off.
Following the break, Anwil got the first, second, and third scores of the quarter leading to an early Gareth Murray timeout call down 13. Thereafter, going bucket for bucket with the reigning champions for a few minutes, the Gladiators ensured that their deficit didn’t go to more than 12. An and-one from leading scorer Patrick Whelan brought the game within single figures for the first time in the period. A tough final two minutes for the Gladiators saw the hosts take advantage and head to the locker rooms with a 48-35 lead.
Fraser Malcolm had stood out for Caledonia, with a tied team high of seven points, shooting 3/4 from the field, including 100% from 2-point range.
The Scottish side clearly had a lot to do in order to make their way back into the game, having been down 13 in the first half. It took the sides well over a minute to get their first bucket, via another tough Patrick Whelan finish through contact, thanks to solid defensive stops to open the third. Anwil matched with two points of their own following a block on a Fahro Alihodzic dunk attempt, coming shortly before a made one from the GB international. The hosts only expanded upon their lead to conclude the third, leading 71-55 with ten to play.
As the game was looking out of reach for the Gladiators, Anwil had to ensure they kept the lead above four points to secure their spot in the next round. The side didn’t take their foot off the gas as they expanded their lead to more than 20 points with more than three minutes to play. They had maintained a solid margin of victory and by the final buzzer, had secured a solid 21-point victory, winning 93-72 in front of a loud home crowd.
Captain Fahro Alihodzic once again led the way for the visitors, as he put up a solid 16 points, and nine rebounds, alongside an assist.
Next up, Gladiators welcome Newcastle Eagles to PlaySport for the first time in Saturday night British Basketball League action. Get your tickets HERE!