Report via British Basketball League

Caledonia Gladiators kept their hopes of back-to-back British Basketball League Trophy titles alive by beating Surrey Scorchers 99-74 on Thursday night.

Surrey Scorchers had travelled to PlaySport Arena in search of a third win of their Trophy campaign, having started 2-0.

But Lukas Palyza led the defending champions past Lloyd Gardner’s side with 20 points and six rebounds, in what was veteran guard Jonny Bunyan’s last game for the Scottish club.

Staring Fives:

Caledonia Gladiators: Michael Bothwell, Princeton Onwas, Patrick Whelan, Lukas Palyza, Fahro Alihodzic

Surrey Scorchers: Abdul Mohamed, Padiet Wang, Josh Steel, Tayo Ogedengbe, Justin Robinson

First Half:

The home team started aggressively, pounding the paint and affording Fahro Alihodzic scoring opportunities under the basket.

Czech forward Palyza then caught fire and after just five minutes, the Gladiators had a double-digit advantage.

Josh Steel made a positive start for the Scorchers, but the team otherwise couldn’t get going in the opening period, taking tough shots and finding themselves in early foul trouble.

Veteran guard Justin Robinson attempted to unlock the Surrey offence in the second quarter, but industrious Caledonian defence, and visible offensive frustration, meant that Gareth Murray’s team held their firm grip on the game.

When the teams departed for the locker rooms, the Gladiators led by nine.

Second Half:

The Scorchers responded appropriately, as they returned to the court for the third quarter.

After going scoreless for the first half, Padiet Wang got off the mark with some assertive transition offence and Elliot Bailey offered a punch from the bench to take the deficit down to six.

However, with the Scorchers undermanned in the frontcourt, the Gladiators targeted them inside once again and the momentum shifted back in their favour. Surrey captain Tayo Ogedengbe did a solid job to resist the Caledonia big men, but ultimately couldn’t do enough to stop them.

Clifton Moore Jr. joined Alihodzic in handing Surrey a steady diet of hook shots and physical lay-ups. Meanwhile, Patrick Whelan stepped up to widen the gap with a string of makes from beyond the arc.

In the final minutes of the third, the contest had slipped away from the Scorchers. Kyle Johnson added to their misery, consistently forcing his way to the line for Caledonia and calmly converting.

Bunyan entered the game and made a shot from the stripe; a touching moment as he received a warm ovation from the crowd on his final appearance for his hometown team.

Moore Jr. finished a transition alley-oop, following an impressive hustle play from Kyle Jimenez early in the fourth period. The slam dramatically punctuated what was a difficult evening for the Scorchers.

Caledonia cruised through the closing stages to earn the win at the buzzer, but their hopes of progressing to the semi-finals depend on results elsewhere.

Player of the Game:

Tonight’s Player of the Game was Kyle Johnson, who stepped up from the bench to record 19 points, five rebounds and one assist.