The Caledonia Gladiators creep over the line 68-67 to stop the 52 game win streak from the London Lions at the Copperbox Arena.
In the second day of a back-to-back which saw the Gladiators fall to the Leicester Riders in the WBBL Trophy, the Gladiators dominate in the first quarter but slowly slipped away in the coming three but hustle it out to a victory.
Gladiators won the tip but Abbie Wolf failed to convert the opening shot, Holly Winterburn opened up the game with a free throw before Wolf scored to give the Gladiators the lead which they didn’t give up for the rest of the quarter, holding Lions to their lowest points in years. A strong opening quarter on both sides of the ball with Mcgarrachan and Wolf combining for 16 points.
Yesterday’s shooting blues against the Riders was swiftly put to bed as the Gladiators shot 3 for 6 from downtown, including two from Mcgarrachan and one from Handy.
In the second, the Lions showed what they could do, winning the second quarter 23-13 but remained down at the half, as the sides went into the locker room 36-29 in favour of the visitors.
London got into their flow early, going on a quick 4-0 run forcing coach Ortega into a timeout to stop a further Lions run and get the Gladiators mojo back. The Capital side made defensive adjustments to force turnovers and missed shots from the Gladiators, coach Stella Kaltsidou had her players double-team ball handlers frequently which turned into multiple missed field goals and three shot-clock violations. Despite some offensive deficiencies, the Gladiators still remained vigilant and stood strong registering 14 assists, moving the ball fluidly and generating buckets.
The sides went into the lockers rooms at half time with the score in favour of the far-travelling Gladiators at 36-29. Erin McGarrachan had an amazing half, eight points in the opening quarter leading to an efficient 19 points at half time on 8/11 shots with three 3s converted, leading the team ahead of Abbie Wolf’s eight.
The Gladiators lead the Lions in a majority of stats at the break but what kept the Lions in the game was the free throws, Gladiators were yet to shoot from the charity stripe but the Lions had 11 made in twenty minutes.
A sluggish start from the Gladiators opened Q3, their fourth shot-clock violation of the game before a three-second violation from Mcgarrachan. The third quarter was an offensive improvement from the Gladiators, winning the quarter by two points with the same recipe for success as the opening twenty minutes, smooth passing to get open looks behind the arch and under the basket.
The Gladiators went into the fourth up by nine, thanks to a last second lay-up from Wolf, and the Lions still had a mountain to climb. The final period meant everything for both sides, the Lions clutching onto their 52 game win streak by a thread and the Gladiators trying to dethrone them and give them their first loss in years.
In the fourth, the teams went back and forth but the Lions stayed a few points back but at the four minute mark, the Gladiators leading scorer in the game Erin McGarrachan fouled out after catching Holly Winterburn. After the Gladiators’ captain’s departure, the Lions realised that the game was theirs for the taking and went full throttle, Herbert-Harrigan converts an and-one to make it a one point game and a minute later, Taylor Murray converted two free throws to tie and take the lead, their first since 1-0 at the very beginning of the game.
Abbie Wolf, who dominated all game, missed an and-one to take a further lead, Herbert-Harrigan, again, took the lead for London but Chantelle Handy converted a crucial two free-throws to win the game 68-67 away from home, causing the bench and travelling supporters to go wild.
An all round strong game from multiple players tonight, despite fouling out, Erin McGarrachan finished on 19 points, five rebounds, two assists and a block. Chantelle Handy finished on 17 points, five rebounds and three assists and Abbie Wolf finished with 16 points, 12 rebounds, three assists and two blocks. Also performing was Jamila Thomson, in her second game the centre had a tame game in general but really aided the team with moving the ball, finishing with nine assists – leading the team on that front.
However, it was Abbie Wolf who was awarded the game MVP, totalling 16 points, 12 rebounds, and 3 assists on 8/10 shooting.
Miguel Ortega’s side stuffed the stat-sheet today, beating London in shooting percentages, apart from free throws, also leading in rebounds, assists and blocks. The Lions forced plenty of turnovers though, as Caledonia turned the ball over 22 times, gifting the ball to London to get back into it.
The Caledonia Gladiators pick up their ninth win of the WBBL Championship, and what a win it was.
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