Caledonia Gladiators vs Essex Rebels – WBBL Championship
After a dominant performance, the Caledonia Gladiators blowout the Essex Rebels in the last game of the WBBL Championship regular season.
Both sides were looking to win to secure their respective positions in the WBBL Championship standings – Caledonia looked to secure the second spot over Leicester & Sheffield with Essex looking to guarantee themselves as the sixth seed above Durham.
The two sides last faced off in October, Chantelle Handy leading the way with 18 points, seven rebounds, two assists, one steal & one block on the way to an 82-74 victory in Essex.
The Rebels are fresh off a blowout victory against the Manchester Met Mystics where they won 88-53, the Gladiators were looking out to avoid that red-hot team as they didn’t fair too well against the London Lions last week, a 19-point loss at the Lagoon Centre.
After losing the jump ball, the Gladiators opened the scoring with a Robyn Lewis three-pointer from the elbow.
Claire Paxton opened the scoring for Essex with a driving lay-up to get the lead to one, the closest it was for the remainder of the game.
By the 6:32 mark, every Gladiators starter was on the scoreboard as Jamila Thompson knocked down a midrange jumper – amassing a 12-point lead.
Caledonia never looked back from that point, always maintaining a comfortable lead against the travellers that was never in any doubt.
A Chantelle Handy three got the second period underway to get the lead to twelve.
Erin McGarrachan would get herself into foul trouble as she grabbed three fouls in the second quarter alone, it wouldn’t be a problem as by the time she got her third, the lead was already up to nineteen and the game had already wrapped up.
Tea Adams had a strong quarter, scoring ten points to lead the team in scoring to get the lead extended.
A strong first half on both sides of the ball, five steals and causing 11 turnovers, saw the Gladiators dominate with a twenty-point lead at the break, 49-29 to the home side.
Even with the pressure off them, the Rebels couldn’t get a good run together, the offence was nullified by the defensive stature of the Gladiators.
Rather than Adams having a big offensive quarter, Handy scored 12 points – all coming in the final five minutes of play. A lay-up with 14 seconds to go gave the Gladiators a 28-point lead going into the final quarter.
More of the same in the fourth, the Rebels attempting to chip away at the lead but failed to do so as the lead continuously grew larger before ending up at 38 points, Abbie Wolf with a layup at the end.
93-55 was the score at the final buzzer, and an incredibly strong performance sealed the second seed in the WBBL Playoffs.
WBBL | ⚔️ Finishing the regular season with a BANG! 💥
— Caledonia Gladiators (@Cal_Gladiators) April 23, 2023
Despite struggling to score from open play, the Rebels got to the foul line a lot as 20 of their 55 points were from the charity stripe, gifting that many opportunities for free points is something that coach Ortega will have to address going into the playoffs.
Barring the fouls, the Gladiators did everything right – the shooting was great with an overall 37/74 (50%) from the field broken down into 25/45 (55%) from two and 12/29 (41%) from three, 46 rebounds and 30 assists is nothing to be scoffed at too – an overall great performance from the team.
Caledonia Gladiators vs London Lions – BBL Championship
On the last day of the season, the Gladiators pick up a heavy loss at the hands of the London Lions.
A poor performance from start to finish was the story of the game, both teams missing key players but London’s stars outshone them.
The Gladiators were still without Ali Fraser & Patrick Tape – two bigs who really helped the rotation of the side. David Sloan was also out.
Caledonia was fresh off the back of a tight loss midweek to the Newcastle Eagles but the past two games didn’t mean much due to 4th already being solidified.
The Lions were recently named the BBL Championship winners, so today was always going to be tough.
After Tarik Phillip opened the scoring for the London Lions, Al Durham converted a free to give the Gladiators an early one-point lead but it wasn’t for long, despite keeping it close originally with buckets being traded and remaining in the two-point mark, the Lions just had more quality and more firepower to take control.
Durham then made a driving layup with under four minutes to go to get the lead back but Luke Nelson connected from downtown Glasgow to take it back before Aaron Best made one of his own to extend the lead, kicking off a 12-2 run in the closing minutes.
A sluggish end to the first quarter was matched with a sluggish start in the second, Hruban opened up the second after Fraser Malcolm missed a layup.
The performance was poor in this game, it was always out of reach and the Gladiators really struggled to get any momentum and get back-to-back baskets. Kieron Achara, Gladiators legend and co-commentator tonight said that the team were “rattled” and it was evident to see.
At half-time, the game was, basically, wrapped up as the Lions were up 24 but I’m sure coach Gareth Murray had a lot to say.
The third quarter was the best showing from the Gladiators on the offensive side, still losing the quarter but they managed to score 19 points which were spearheaded by Al Durham who scored eight.
Defensively, holes were still as big as ever in this game with Hruban and Soluade leading the charge.
The fourth quarter was the tightest the game was – 15-12 in favour of the visitors but it was as tight-nit as you could get but it wasn’t enough as the Gladiators still lost by 32 – almost the opposite outcome as their sister team in the WBBL who won by 38 points earlier today.
The defence was picked up in the final period, and more rotational players picked up minutes to get their sharpness up – William Kemp and Oscar Baldwin had the most minutes but Jack Hencher and Mathew Keegan also contributed off the bench.
Fraser Malcolm had a good game, picking up a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds, three assists, a steal and two blocks to go along with it.
Durham also had a strong game, leading the team in scoring with 13 points.
Everything went wayward, the Lions were the better team in every statistical category out with rebounds, and Caledonia had 42 to London’s 40.
London’s 30 assists to Caledonia’s 12 is a massive teller of what went wrong, the ball movement wasn’t there but, when it was, shots weren’t knocked down.
Looking forward now, the Gladiators now move into the playoffs and will play, our BBL Trophy final opponents, the Cheshire Phoenix on Saturday at the Emirates Arena.
BBL | Next up, the Playoffs! 😤
— Caledonia Gladiators (@Cal_Gladiators) April 23, 2023