Caledonia Gladiators made history this evening, becoming the first-ever Scottish women’s team to compete in the second round of a European competition. Their first leg away fixture vs NKA Universitas Pécs ended in a 51-75 loss, as Miguel Ortega’s side struggled in the second half, and will face the Hungarians in the second leg at PlaySport next week.
Following a Kirsty Brown-won tip-off, it was Chantelle Handy who got the game going with a 3-ball, before a Brown layup, and a Virag Weninger deuce, put the game to 5-2 in favour of the Gladiators after two minutes. A steal and fast break finish from Pecs forced a Miguel Ortega timeout after another minute, with the game tied at six apiece. The sides battled bucket-for-bucket, with the score sitting tied at 11 halfway through the period. For the remainder of the opening ten minutes, Pecs showed out, gaining a lead as big as 8 before Gladiators made their way back into it, with the hosts holding a slim 3-point lead, 16-19.
The second quarter saw much of the same: a back-and-forth battle with strong defense, and no team able to push ahead throughout the first few minutes. A Laken James corner-three with six minutes to play in the half tied the game at 24-24. After the period’s halfway point, Pecs began to make their mark, expanding their lead to 32-26 before an Ari Pujol three halved their lead. In the final seconds, strong defense from Erin McGarrachan and Robyn Lewis pushed the side onto a Sam Roscoe buzzer-beater to reduce the Hungarians’ lead to four, ending the half 37-33.
In the first half, GB international Sydney Wallace led all scorers with 13 points, and Laken James led her team with 8. The stat that told the story of the half was the rebound, Pecs leading 18-17, showcasing the closely contested nature of the first twenty minutes.
Pecs got off to a flyer in the third period, quickly expanding upon their earlier gained lead to swiftly take the game to 9, forcing a Miguel Ortega timeout. It wasn’t long until the hosts expanded their lead to double-digits, leading 44-33 just under halfway through. The hosts, building off their home crowd momentum, advanced even further with well-worked plays, finishing the penultimate quarter up 53-38.
The start of the final ten minutes saw the visitors quickly break the 20-point margin mark, going up 58-38 with just two minutes played. For Gladiators to be in with a chance of advancing, they would be forced to regain some of their deficit. Immediately following a timeout, Robyn Lewis and Hannah Robb did just that, bringing the team from Scotland back into it, with a quick three and two respectively, forcing another timeout – this time for the home side. As the final period progressed, Pecs remained comfortable, and despite their efforts, the travelling Gladiators side couldn’t make their way back into the game.
Winning the Gladiators’ MVP was Laken James, who put up 12 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 assists, in a standout performance.
After domestic action vs Welsh side Cardiff Met Archers on Sunday, Gladiators will welcome Pecs to PlaySport, needing to bring back a 24-point deficit at home to advance into the next round of EuroCup Women. Get your tickets for all the action HERE!