In the penultimate away game of the regular season, 3rd placed Caledonia Gladiators travelled to 2nd place, and double-finalists (Trophy, Cup), Leicester Riders. Heading into the outing, it was looking to be a crucial one. Leicester (15-3) were ahead in the standings with 30 points, as Caledonia (14-4) trailed slightly behind with 28 to their name – both teams had played the same amount of games (18, with this being their 19th).
The visiting side felt confident going into the fixture. Swedish guard, Patricia Elias said: “Leicester are the only team we have not defeated yet, we’re expecting a tough game but if we work together as a team and execute, we are in with a chance.”
In their previous outing, Riders picked up a loss on the road to a strong Sevenoaks Suns side, who defeated them 60-67 on Monday. For Gladiators, it was a huge bounceback win at home to Sheffield Hatters, fairly convincingly winning the game 70-57.
After Kirsty Brown won tip off, Hannah Robb of Riders got the game started with an impressive driving layup. After a few scores from Leicester, Caledonia finally got their first scores via two deep threes from Robyn Lewis and Chantelle Handy to even the game at six apiece.The first few minutes of the ball game were end to end as expected, showing a strong start for the away team who led by six points halfway through the quarter. For the remainder of the ten minutes, the same fast-paced action continued as Miguel Ortega’s side maintained their lead of half a dozen, 13-19.
The second quarter saw much of the same as the Scottish side extended upon their lead through solid team basketball and high energy on the court, as well as from the bench. The first half was an improvement for the Gladiators compared to their loss against Riders in the WBBL Trophy in February. A stat that stood out, and summed up the game so far was 3-point percentage, which the visitors led 71% (5/7) to the hosts’ weaker than usual 22% (2/9). Heading into the locker rooms, Gladiators maintained an eight point lead, 32-40.
At half-time, both high-quality coaches would have been underlining the importance of this game, as both teams look to approach the postseason in style – hoping for the 2nd place spot, following closely behind the top-ranked London Lions.
After the break, Leicester came out flying. The home side fought themselves back into the game, remaining in striking distance at points during the third. Solid team play and high-energy bench reactions allowed for Riders to somewhat bring the game to Gladiators, who prevailed and kept ahead. Téa Adams and Abbie Wolf stood out for the travelling Scots with 10 and 8 points respectively, while Hannah Robb and Fiona O’dwyer were the highlights for the hosts, with 10 and 9. After thirty minutes, it was Gladiators’ game to lose, as they maintained their same 8-point margin, 42-50.
The final quarter proved to be as thrilling as the rest. With solid defense, and well-worked offense adding to the excitement of the afternoon as both teams continued to battle despite the score gap in Caledonia’s favour. A strong all-round performance and well-worked team basketball gave the Gladiators an eventual, and important win on the road. Upon the final buzzer, the Scots had claimed a 57-67 victory, putting the sides on equal points in the league table, and an identical 15-4 record.
With a solid performance of 8 points, 12 rebounds and an assist, Abbie Wolf was awarded the game MVP. Her showing proved essential to the team’s important victory in the WBBL Championship.
Next up, Miguel Ortega’s side travel further south to Surrey to face Len Busch’s fourth-place Sevenoaks Suns before welcoming the WBBL league-leading London Lions at home on Wednesday – TICKETS. Also, Gareth Murray’s BBL side welcome Lloyd Gardner’s last-place Scorchers to the Emirates tomorrow – TICKETS.