Report via British Basketball League
Caledonia clinched a close win over Sheffield Sharks, sealing their first win in the Trophy group stage 72-80.
The Scots had an 18-point lead before the half, and looked to be in cruise control until the Sharks fought their way back into the lead following an immense third quarter effort.
Lukas Palyza was lights out on the floor leading the Gladiators with 16 personal points and four three’s in the game. Devearl Ramsey provided a much-needed spark for the hosts out of half-time and put up 20 points with seven rebounds and six assists.
Sheffield Sharks: Devearl Ramsey, Jalon Pipkins, Jordan Ratinho, Kipper Nichols, Bennett Koch.
Caledonia Gladiators: Mike Bothwell, Patrick Whelan, Lukas Palyza, Princeton Onwas, Fahro Alihodzic.
Prentiss Nixon was scheduled to start for the hosts, but was pulled out in favour of Jalon Pipkins minutes before tip-off, while Mike Bothwell got his second consecutive start for the Gladiators with Ian DuBose unable to play.
Caledonia needed a win to keep their Trophy hopes alive, having lost their first two outings against Plymouth City Patriots and Cheshire Phoenix.
Bothwell backed down inside against Devearl Ramsey and laid home for the opening bucket of the game. This came off the back of Fahro Alihodzic spiking Pipkins’ effort, leading to the transition play.
It was a physical, quick start for both sides who had clear intent to attack in transition, but just missing the finishing touches around the rim. Pipkins attacked through the contact to earn a trip to the line and tied up the game at eight-apiece with five minutes played.
It was a struggle for both teams from outside. This didn’t faze Bothwell who continued to drive inside to rack up the Caledonia points in the paint.
Bennett Koch gave Sheffield their first lead after laying in off the post spin, drawing the foul and drilling the free-throw, but Lukas Palyza hit back and broke the cold snap with back-to-back triples.
Caledonia closed out the first strongly with Palyza hitting the stop-and-pop two before Clifton Moore Jr capped off a 10-4 run to give them a 20-15 lead.
Baskets were traded in the early part of the second period as Kyle Johnson and Jordan Ratinho scored lay-ups at both ends.
Caledonia kept Sheffield at arms lengths and were starting to heat up from deep as Patrick Whelan strung the open three after some fluid passing with the inside-out play.
The Gladiators asserted full control in the tie and stretched out to a 10-point lead through Whelan from outside and Moore Jr inside.
Palyza was on fire and made his third three of the game, despite the hand in his face. Sharks couldn’t find their rhythm and struggled to lift the lid off the basket, as the Scottish side made it 40-22.
The hosts managed to put together a run of points to end the half thanks to captain, Rodney Glasgow Jr from the foul line and Nichols with the first Sharks three of the game. This made a small dent in a big lead; Caledonia led 29-42 at the half.
Ramsey got the second half going with intent, finishing through the trees with Nichols following up with another lay-in. Two further Sharks scores forced Gareth Murray into calling a timeout to slow the bleeding, as Sheffield brought themselves back to a seven-point deficit at 44-37.
The net barely rippled on Palyza’s next three-point make straight out of the timeout and Alihodzic followed up with a finish from the low block.
The visitors found themselves on the ropes as Ramsey and Nichols combined to push Sheffield into the lead, closing what seemed to be an insurmountable gap.
With the score at 51-49, Sharks had gone on a 22-8 run in the third quarter, and Ramsey had taken his personal total to 16 points.
Bothwell broke the Gladiators duck with a big-time bucket inside, but the home team’s hot hand was contagious as Ratinho got his first three of the game.
Fraser Malcolm couldn’t beat the buzzer from outside the arc and Sheffield went into the fourth with a slender 56-54 lead.
Caledonia were in desperate need of a response, which is exactly what Moore provided.
His back-to-back buckets made Atiba Lyons call a Sharks timeout as Gladiators restored their lead with a six-point stretch. It turned into a game of runs as Sheffield hit back with Pipkins from outside, and the low shooting percentage from the first half was completely out of mind.
However hard they tried, the away side couldn’t get out of sight as Sheffield responded to every make with one of their own.
Malcolm hit a tough corner-three, but Pipkins chased his own missed floater and hooked the ball over the defending Moore for two. Ratinho made it a one-score game with a three, as the game entered a frenetic closing stage.
Alihodzic finished the game much like he started it, bullying down low to widen the gap between the sides and crucially forcing his opposite number, Koch, to foul out with two minutes on the clock.
Sheffield’s shooting dried up in the dying embers and the game was sealed at the line.
Caledonia clinched a crucial win to stay in the competition, handing Sheffield a 72-80 loss on their home court.
Player of the Game
Tonight’s player of the game was Fahro Alihodzic. He was crucial to his side building an early lead in the game and then closing out after the Sheffield comeback, finishing with 15 points, three rebounds, one steal and one block.
Our crucial final group game is on Thursday 18th of January, 19:45 at Playsport. Get your tickets HERE!