Caledonia Gladiators vs Surrey Scorchers (BBL) – Emirates Arena
Heading into the fixture, Gladiators had in their mind that a win could secure the desired top four place seed which Gareth Murray and co. had been searching for all season long. The hosts saw Ali Fraser and Patrick Tape remain out, whilst for the visitors, GB international Andrew Lawrence made a return to the Emirates Arena having spent the majority of the last few seasons out injured.
To get the game started, Fahro Alihodzic won tip-off, before a Prince Onwas three-ball opened the accounts for the Gladiators. The hosts saw a strong first few minutes, which included high energy plays from Kyle Jimenez, Fahro Alihodzic and Jeremiah Bailey. The Emirates crowd were behind their side, pushing them on as they would continue to throughout the fixture, hoping to edge them onto a bounceback win after a tough loss in Newcastle on Friday. After ten minutes, Gladiators led 29-21 after a strong start that Gareth Murray was sure to be happy with.
The second quarter continued as the first did: high scoring, energy, and a high lead for the hosts. Despite Scorchers’ fight back led by captain Tayo Ogedengbe and Josh McFolley with ten points apiece, it was the Gladiators, highlighted by Fahro Alihodzic’s 17 points that was enough to expand upon their lead, and near a twenty point advantage at the half with a 59-40 lead going into the locker rooms.
After the break, the following quarter was a lot more defensively focused, with Scorchers picking up on that end of the floor, forcing a few turnovers on Gladiators’ front, and fouling a few times in the process. However, Gladiators never seemed to be in trouble, maintaining a 16-point lead with two minutes to play in period three out of four. By the end of the quarter, they led 74-58.
A stat that had told the game so far was assists, in which Gladiators led the visitors 23-11. Their accurate passing had been key to the lead so far, with Fahro Alihodzic, Prince Onwas and Al Durham all on five dimes each.
The fourth quarter was as entertaining as ever, with all three of the university student Gladiators getting to the floor, and Will Kemp standing out of the trio with seven points to his name including a nice spin move. The sides battled to the end despite the margin in favour of the hosts, as they reached a century of points. In the end, Gladiators won 102-77.
A top performance from Jeremiah Bailey was worthy of the game night MVP with his 18 point, 11 rebound and 5 assist outing – which was essential to the team’s eventual victory.
Sevenoaks Suns vs Caledonia Gladiators (WBBL) – Surrey Sports Park
After a big win over Leicester Riders yesterday, Gladiators were forced to bounce back in quick turnaround, as the travelled further south for an equally tough challenge against Len Busch’s Sevenoaks Suns, a serious contender for top 3 within the Championship race.
A Caledonia win would see them further control the second spot above the Leicester Riders, who faced London Lions on the night. However, a Lions win and Gladiators loss would confirm domestic triple for the capital side, who the Scottish squad defeated in dramatic fashion in February.
With Abbie Wolf winning tip-off, it took a few shots before the visitors on the night could pick up their first points of the encounter. A close first quarter as expected was end-to-end, fast-paced and the teams traded baskets throughout. After ten minutes, Gladiators maintained a slim one-point lead, 16-15, hoping to revenge their previous loss to the Surrey-based side that knocked them out of the WBBL Cup early in the season.
The second ten minute spell saw Sevenoaks fight back in style, pushing their way back into the game and leading the quarter 18-12. The Suns shot well from inside, and got to the line plenty which allowed for a lot of easy scores. By the half-time break, the hosts led 34-27 with the game still to play for. Araion Bradshaw led the way for them, with 13 points. Player/coach Chantelle Handy was the highest scorer for Caledonia, with nine points and six rebounds to her name.
Whatever Miguel Ortega had said at half-time must have sat well with his squad, as they took the third quarter to fight back into the game with grit and determination throughout. They turned over their 7 point disadvantage into a lead with just over three and a half minutes to play. After the penultimate quarter, the Scottish squad maintained a seven-point cushion over the hosts after a Chantelle Handy made three closed the ten minutes – 42-49.
With plenty still on the line, it was Gladiators who prevailed and maintained a solid lead in an essential fourth quarter. Fairly accurate shooting from the travellers and top performance from Chantelle Handy were crucial to closing it in the end. Upon the final buzzer, they had picked up a huge 66-61 win, stopping their capital city rivals from picking up the Championship trophy at this point. They take them on on Wednesday at the Lagoon in the penultimate home game of the regular season before the all-important playoffs.
Chantelle Handy’s outing of 22 points, 7 rebounds and an assist on 7/7 3PT was the key to Gladiators’ victory, assisting as always both on and off the court with a gameday MVP worthy performance.