BBL Play-Offs, quarter-finals (2nd leg)
Caledonia Gladiators (166) 80-84 (186) Cheshire Phoenix (23-19, 39-40, 56-64)
(Gladiators: Durham, 28; Sloan, 12; Bailey/Alihodzic, 10 — Phoenix: Evans, 19; Jack, 18; Archibald, 14)
For the Phoenix, the heartbreak of March’s BBL Trophy loss banished and in resounding fashion as they backed up Friday’s 102-86 win with a solid display at both ends to secure a 186-166 aggregate.
It will mark head coach Ben Thomas’ first appearance in the last four stages, and while the whole team contributed, short-handed as they were with just seven players, it was Marcus Evans who stood out with 19 points and seven rebounds to lead the way.
Maceo Jack added 18 and Amorie Archibald picked up where he left off, as he amassed 14 along with the career-high 35 he picked up in the first leg.
Al Durham led all scorers in vain for the Gladiators with 28 points on 12/19 shooting as they end their season abruptly but with their heads held high.
Eager to narrow the gap, Caledonia showed intent, but were unable to execute only scoring six points in the first four minutes. Fortunately for the hosts, Cheshire were the same in a nervy beginning.
The hosts picked up the pace from there, something that the Phoenix love to do and Caledonia found success from this, racing to an 18-13 lead with 2:20 remaining as David Sloan got quick scores inside.
Led to Jack, the visitors finished strong to narrow the gap on the afternoon to 23-19, but still lead overall.
The Phoenix – like they did in the first leg – were threatening and at the midway point, took the lead thanks to a three-point play from Evans. That lead grew with 2:40 remaining thanks to a triple plus the foul from Jamell Anderson that gave the away side a 38-31 cushion, only growing the aggregate lead.
The Gladiators hit back towards the end of the half but Cheshire had a clear advantage at the break.
Caledonia’s momentum that was seen in the second quarter’s final minutes kept going in the third as they held their counterparts to just three points in nearly five minutes, while taking a 48-43 lead thanks to Princeton Onwas.
The home crowd inside the Emirates were getting behind their side, anticipating a comeback, however the game became scrappy with both teams committing fouls, highlighted with Onwas fouling out with 3:31 left.
Cheshire responded as they made their foul shots throughout the third and Archibald extended his side’s lead both on the day and on aggregate to 57-52 with a three-point play.
All of a sudden, the noise generated inside the Emirates became silent – except from the Phoenix end – and everything was going the visitors’ way, as they enjoyed a 64-58 lead heading into the fourth.
Thanks to Durham, Caledonia hit back as he scored seven uncontested points to tied the game before driving to the hoop and feeding Jonny Bunyan for a three from the top to give the hosts a 71-68 lead.
But despite’s Durham’s best efforts, there was to be no late miracle this time, as Cheshire recovered to retake the lead late on and ensure a comfortable win over the two legs.