Caledonia Gladiators took on Oaklands Wolves in the WBBL Championship in the opening home fixture of 2023. Coach Miguel Ortega was looking to build on previous form.
Erin Jones remained out with injury. However, Robyn Lewis and Téa Adams returned to court after missing out on last week’s Trophy victory over Thames Valley Cavaliers.
Going into the game, Gladiators hoped to maintain a solid League position. They started the New Year in fourth place. Contrastingly, the visitors sat third from bottom.
To open the accounts, Gladiators started off strong, going on an 10-0 run before Wolves could get their first bucket. This could partly be credited to Wolves’ Jorjah Smith picking up two fouls in seven seconds, bringing her to the bench, and otherwise credited to smart basketball from the hosts. After being subbed back on halfway through the first, Smith made an immediate impact with a three-pointer to bring the game within six points. Despite Oaklands fighting their way back into it, after ten minutes, Gladiators maintained slim a 3-point lead, 19-16.
In the second period, Gladiators maintained a solid lead, expanding on it throughout. Thanks to solid fast-break play, well-worked possessions, and reliance primarily on Erin McGarrachan, the Scottish side had a 17-point lead going into the locker rooms, 42-25. McGarrachan, who was also the standout player in the team’s last fixture, scored 20 points, and grabbed 11 rebounds in 18 minutes of play.
Wolves chipped back at the Gladiators’ gained advantage, forcing Coach Ortega to take a timeout with seven minutes to go, after a few fast break buckets and three-pointers, with the run being made possible by Jorjah Smith and Cassidy Gould. Following the timeout, Gladiators bounced back, scoring a couple of successive buckets, and forcing a 24-second violation. The remainder of the quarter continued to be end-to-end, finishing up with the hosts having a 19-point lead at the finish, 59-40.
With ten minutes to go, Ortega’s side simply had to maintain their pre-gained lead. They did exactly that, coming out with an eventual deserved 27-point victory, 84-57.
Erin McGarrachan was undoubtedly the Exceed Footwear-sponsored MVP on the afternoon. She finished the game with an unreal 31 points, 14 rebounds and 3 assists.
Next up for the WBBL side, they take on Cardiff Met Archers at home in two weeks time. It’s certain to be an exciting one as Robyn Lewis faces her former side, and player/assistant coach Chantelle Handy comes up against Met Archers’ head coach, Stef Collins, who was a GB international with Handy. Get your tickets HERE!