Caledonia Gladiators took on Leicester Riders in the British Basketball League during a busy week for the club. Rob Paternostro and Gareth Murray’s sides brought an entertaining matchup, as always when the two teams face off against each other.
Following a Fahro Alihodzic-won tip-off, it was the Gladiators who got off on the front foot via an Ian DuBose finish after a few misses from both teams. In the first five minutes, Gladiators proved their threat as a strong three-point shooting unit – making three of their four opening shots from beyond the arc, two from Lukas Palyza and one from Mihailo Jovicic. Both sides, however, traded shots – knocking them down at a consistent rate. With the hosts having led for the majority of the quarter, Sam Idowu gave Riders their first lead of the game with a minute to play – also following an and-one three-pointer converted by veteran guard Conner Washington. After ten minutes played, Leicester led 26-28.
As the second period started, Caledonia had begun to show frustration as Leicester had their lead. Despite both sides’ best efforts to pull ahead, neither was able to gain any substantial lead. A few poor turnovers from the Gladiators stopped them from making their possessions count, and a Sam Idowu monster dunk a few minutes into the period was enough to build positive momentum for the Riders. After twenty minutes played and as the sides headed to the locker rooms, Gladiators had gained an additional bucket in the final seconds, Clifton Moore tying the game at 44 points apiece. A spat between players then occurred on the half-time buzzer, but it was quickly brushed over by the officials.
Despite the dramatics to end the half, it was Gladiators who got off to a flying start in the third quarter. Quick-made shots from Fahro Alihodzic and Patrick Whelan had given the Gladiators an early advantage. By the time seven minutes had been played, Gladiators enjoyed a healthy 11-point lead, forcing a timeout for Rob Paternostro’s side. Strong defence and swift offense, alongside well-worked plays, were the key to Caledonia’s advantage. However, Paternostro’s Riders fought back into it through strong offense and some defensive slip-ups on Gladiators’ end. After the third period concluded, Gladiators were up 4, leading 67-63. A Blake Bowman buzzer-beater finished the quarter, giving Leicester some more momentum heading into the final.
The final ten minutes would prove crucial, as both sides were aiming for victory in an already closely contested game. A win would see Leicester cement their position in the top 3, or see Gladiators clinch a top 5 spot, with a few games in hand. To begin, it was the Riders who had the advantage, despite the low-scoring start to the quarter – they led 9-5 after five minutes played. Both sides traded impressive buckets, as an Ian DuBose contested finish gave the Gladiators a three-point lead with two minutes to play. It was looking like the Gladiators could be heading to overtime again, as they had done in their home win over Sheffield Sharks. Pat Whelan’s clutch play with a huge three-pointer and charge looked to conclude the game in regular time, however, the Riders regained possession with 55 seconds to play down 2.
With the game in his hands, it was Clifton Moore who won the game for the Gladiators with 2 seconds to play, putting the score one point ahead in favour of the hosts. Perhaps the most clutch play of the season so far. Gladiators had defeated the Leicester Riders 84-83 in the end.
However, undoubtedly, it was Patrick Whelan who deserved MVP, with an impressive 24 points, 4 rebounds, and 5 assists against his former side.
Next up, Gareth Murray’s side travel to Bilbao before a double-header weekend against Plymouth City Patriots and Bristol Flyers. At home, the side welcome CSU Sibiu, their first Europe Cup opponents, to PlaySport. Secure your tickets HERE!