Caledonia Gladiators’ unbeaten home form came to an end this evening as they fell to an 82-73 defeat from Newcastle Eagles in East Kilbride tonight.
The Tyneside club became the first team this season to win a back-to-back after last night’s victory over Plymouth, claiming their fourth victory in a row.
There was an even start to the game with both sides showing their attacking intent which saw the score at 4-4 after the opening two minutes. Former Glasgow Rock, Jordan Johnson reminded some of his former teammates what he could do as he looped one in from deep to give his side a three-point lead but that was immediately matched by Fahro Alihodzic who hit back with three straight layups.
Johnson replied with two from the free-throw line, but Eagles could not deal with Alihodzic who drove to the basket for another two points. Lukáš Palyza’s three-point jump shot stretched the lead to four, but Eagles kept nipping away and soon had the score back level at 17-17.
Palyza’s effort outside the area regained Gladiators leadbefore Whelan added yet another two. Josh Ward-Hibbert replied with one from the free-throw line, but Caledonia were not slowing down as Trent Buttrick’s asserted his dominance with an unstoppable dunk. Patrick Whelan then got on the board with a three of his own before Mihailo Jovicic concluded the half after a well-worked assist from Johnson to give his team a 29-18 lead going into the second period.
The break seemed to hamper Gladiators’ form and there was a sloppier start to the second quarter. Eagles pulled back four points early to the disappointment of Gareth Murray who called his first timeout less than three minutes in.
The stoppage seemed to reignite the hosts who stretched their lead to 12 but it didn’t last long as a six-point scoring run from Newcastle halved the deficit with three minutes left in the half. Whelan ended the streak with a diving layup, but the hosts failed to halt the visitor’s momentum who clawed back the gap to edge themselves in front for the first time in the match.
Alihodvic’s dunk with ten seconds left ensured Gladiators led the encounter at half-time by the narrowest of margins. The 34-year-old Bosnian-Brit was instrumental in his side’s 38-37 lead with 12 points in the first two quarters.
It was the third quarter where the match would really hot up with both sides going back and forth, desperately trying to take control of the scoreline. A three from Ian Dubose in the third minute of the period gave Gladiators a four-point lead but it would barely last a minute and Johnson levelled for Eagles with a three of his own.
A moment of madness ensued as Johnson and Prince Onwaswent head-to-head before the point guard went flying to the ground . The Eagles favourite went running back at Onwas but was intercepted by teammate Green who carried him off to the other side of the court.
Palyza regained Gladiators lead from the resultant free-throw, but Johnson converted both of his to flip the scoreline back in Eagles favour. The feisty episode had fired him right up and he threw in a three seconds later to make it 52-48.
Alihodzic continued his good first-half form with another dunk to halve the deficit but another three from Mcgill further frustrated the home side. Neither side managed to put together any sort of run in the rest of the period giving Newcastle a 56-50 lead going into the final quarter.
But that lead would prove to carry them through as Eagles saw out the game in style in front of disappointed home support. It wasn’t for the lack of trying from Gladiators who twice looked as though they may pull off a remarkable comeback, but Newcastle stood firm to protect their advantage throughout closing stages. A minute of brilliance from the home side saw them cut an 11-point gap to just 75-73 with two and a half minutes to go but Eagles showed their quality to flip the momentum back in their favour and conclude the match with a seven-point run.
Gladiators look to bounce back on Friday with a home tie against Cheshire Pheonix. Before that, though it’s a return to continental competition with their final EuroCup group match against Bilbao Basket. Tip-off is at 7:30 pm at the PlaySport Arena and tickets can be purchased HERE!