Report by Robbie Macdonald

After a poor start to 2023 losing their opening two games, Caledonia Gladiators (BBL) turned the corner superbly with back-to-back home wins in both the BBL trophy and league over the last two weeks.

Unfortunately for the Gladiators though their good form would not continue as they trailed second-place Bristol Flyers 88-76 in tonight’s game at the Emirates Arena.

Yesterday it was confirmed that American guard Aljami Durham would join Gladiators until the end of the season. Starting this season with G.S. Lavrio B.C in the top tier of Greece, the highly anticipated rookie went straight into the squad for tonight’s match. Also making his first appearance was British-Bosnian centre, Fahro Alihodzic who signed on Tuesday.

The game started as many expected – extremely tight. The opening quarter ended 16-16 as both sides traded baskets with neither managing to put together a scoring run higher than six. Prince Onwas stood out for the home team securing 5 points, while VJ King drew two shooting fouls excellently for the visitors, scoring all four free throws.

The close nature of the first half ended abruptly as Bristol came out for the second quarter flying. Despite conceding an early free throw, the Gloucestershire team put together a comfortable 12-point scoring run to give them a lead of 11 within the first four minutes of the period. A three-point play from debutant Durham followed by a driving layup from Ownas gave the impression of a change in momentum but that would not last, and Flyers quickly regained their shooting form. Their lead eventually grew to 16, but a five-point in the final 30 seconds for the Gladiators saw the half end 36-47.

Jelani Watson-Gayle has had a brilliant season so far for Bristol and continued his fine form, picking up 12 points and 5 assists in the opening half. It’s not just their offence that deserves credit though. Leslee Smith won four defensive rebounds for the away team in under eight minutes of playtime . While the half was disappointing for the home team fans could take encouragement from centre Patrick Tapé, who shone at both baskets scoring 10 points and winning 3 defensive rebounds.

Whatever Gareth Murray said to his team at half-time seemed to work as Gladiators’ fortunes turned in the third quarter. Although the visitors did start brightly, quickly increasing their lead to 14, Caledonia responded well to cut the deficit to four.

Miller tried desperately to switch the momentum in favour of Bristol scoring a nice two-pointer but a quickfire double layup from Alihodzic put the Scottish outfit within just two points. Flyers did regain a six-point lead to end the quarter at 63-57 but a far better showing from the hosts gave hope to the noisy home support.

Sadly, for Caledonia, they could not complete the comeback as Andreas Kapoulas’ side managed the final quarter well to nullify any chance of a home victory. A further three defensive rebounds from Thomas Bell III, to take his game total into double figures, complimented Flyers’ clinical offence to ensure the win.

Despite the loss, Tapé continued his good form, finishing the game with 18 points, seven rebounds and one assist. He was awarded game MVP, sponsored by Exceed Footwear, for the second game in a row.


The defeat sees Caledonia fall back down to sixth in the standings following Manchester Giants’ 97-92 win against Surrey Scorchers. However, that could all change next week as Gladiators will travel down to face Manchester next Friday at the National Basketball Performance Centre in what is setting up to be a fantastic match. Tip-off for that one is at 7:30 pm.