In an eventful game from the offset, seeing the hosts’ Head Coach Atiba Lyons ejected from the game after just six minutes, Caledonia Gladiators lost out on the road to the Sheffield Sharks – being defeated 69-62 in a low-scoring, defensive showcase.

Caledonia travelled south to the Steel City as the league’s hottest offensive team looked to build upon their 5-game win streak going up against the #1 defensive side in the Sheffield Sharks.

With the Sharks getting the game going in the Tank, the ball game started with a couple of traded buckets – but it was the other end of the ball that became more of a story. Both sides showed out on the defensive end early on, struggling to get going offensively. After five minutes, Gareth Murray’s side finally got into gear – as they went on a quick 5-0 run just 30 seconds after the TV timeout. Shortly after, Atiba Lyons was ejected from the game – leaving the coaching job to Marko Backovic for at least 34 minutes. The offensive pace continued from then for the visitors, as Caledonia built a strong lead in the first, bringing all of their bench to the court. After perhaps the most eventful first period of the season, the Gladiators led 12-23.

Sheffield brought their way back into the game early in the second period, with a quick 6-0 run to open it – forcing an early timeout from Gareth Murray as his side went on a three-minute scoreless run. Sharks then took their first lead since near the start of the fixture – with their offensive showcase continuing. In the first five minutes of the period, Sharks went on a 16-6 scoring run – in complete contrast to the opening quarter that saw Caledonia dominate offensively. Gladiators then fought back into the ball game, leading 28-35 which forced a Marko Backovic timeout – showing that neither team could cement a solid lead – which was the theme of the half. By the half-time buzzer, Gladiators led 30-37 and showed themselves as the stronger defensive team on the night – holding Sharks to just 30 in the half, despite the hosts’ bite back later in the period.

3-point shooting told the story of the first 20 minutes as Sharks struggled from outside, going 1/11 (9%), while Gladiators looked average at best from beyond the arc – shooting 33%.

Backovic’s side got off to a hot start in the second half, as they brought themselves back into the game early on – drawing fouls from Caledonia quickly, bringing the game within a point after two minutes – and taking the lead after three, going on a 10-0 run before a Palyza three finally stopped it. The score-for-score battles continued as the sides traded buckets once again whilst defence remained a main point. A converted and-one three-ball from Kipper Nichols concluded the quarter with Sharks leading 54-47.

The game was on the line as Sheffield had their biggest lead of the game at 7 going into the final period. While the game remained end-to-end, it took a few minutes for Gladiators to get going, as they went on a 7-0 run in just over one minute as the sides headed for a timeout halfway through the last quarter. As the game closed, Sheffield maintained a slim lead – with a Mike Bothwell split pair of free throws bringing the game to four points before a layup from the Furman graduate brought it to two. A missed Quade Green three-ball proved that it would be too little, too late for Caledonia, as Sheffield eventually pulled off a strong 69-62 victory.