Caledonia Gladiators lost out to London Lions in the British Basketball League Trophy semi-finals after losing out 85-75 despite leading by as many as fifteen in the first half. The side from the capital will advance to tomorrow’s final, which will also be played at the Utilita Arena.
For the Gladiators, they headed into the game at almost full fitness, with only Oscar Baldwin not travelling to the midlands. Lions, on the other hand, were without their ex-NBA talent in Sam Dekker and David Nwaba.
New man Mike Bothwell got the scoring underway in the game, with a converted and-one finish putting 3 points on the board. Caledonia were the side who got off to the best start, leading 8-4 after three minutes despite some poor offensive sequences and missed shots from both sides. With the pace favouring the northern side, Gladiators led the way – 10-8 – after five minutes played. Gladiators had an impressive remainder of the quarter, with a strong offence led by Clifton Moore (9 points in six minutes), and a last-minute contested finish by Ian DuBose to conclude the period 19-28 up.
The second period saw the sides battling bucket-for-bucket with Caledonia maintaining a similar advantage for the first few minutes whilst London looked to bring themselves back into the game. A Josh Sharma slam energised the Lions, but two Fraser Malcolm three-pointers shortly after brought the Gladiators to their biggest lead so far at 12 – forcing a timeout for a frustrated London team. Their woes continued with several missed shots in a row and a goaltending call against them. For the majority of the second period, Caledonia remained with their solid 12-point lead, until two offensive possessions from Lions concluded the half with the difference at eight points – 44-52.
Clifton Moore Jr. led the way for the Scots, with 13 of their 52 points in the half – his first nine coming in his first six minutes of the bench. The rookie also contributed with four rebounds. Three-point shooting told the story of the first twenty minutes – Gladiators hitting 50% of theirs compared to the Lions’ poor 10%.
A Donte Grantham missed a layup in the opening minute of the third period suggested that Lions’ struggles would continue – but a Gabe Olaseni putback layup opened the half’s scoring. Despite the Lions looking initially stronger defensively, the Gladiators maintained their advantage. London’s Petar Božić’s anger was highlighted by the officials as he was awarded a technical foul. Lions reduced their deficit to six, but a few blocks from Prince Onwas and Mike Bothwell halted hopes of a comeback momentarily. A Josh Sharma and-one brought the game to just a point with a minute to go in the third, with the penultimate period eventually finishing tied at 61 apiece.
Luke Nelson opened the period with two points, taking the Lions’ lead to two before a Kyle Johnson mid-range shot matched it. The sides traded buckets with the game agonisingly close in the final period as the Lions looked to be the team with the most momentum after five minutes thanks to a Josh Sharma offensive showcase – they led 74-69 halfway through the period as a Palyza three cut their advantage. The Lions, with an extremely impressive final period, finished the game 85-75 victors and will play in tomorrow’s final also at the Utilita Arena. Gladiators chances of retaining their title have now been stopped, and Lions will look to pick up the silverware.