Sheffield Sharks 68-77 Caledonia Gladiators (17-26, 17-27, 12-17, 22-7)
Sharks – Ogunyemi 20, Banks Jr 15, Glasgow Jr 14; Gladiators – Burns 14, Tape 12, Sloan 11
The Gladiators were in good form coming into the game, beating the Leicester Riders on Wednesday, already their second win over the current BBL champions this season.
Now they will face off for the third time in Cup action, the first significant silverware up for grabs in the BBL season, as the Riders won their quarter-final match-up against the Newcastle Eagles on Saturday.
Despite a late run by the Sharks, the Gladiators were in firm control throughout the game. In front of a near sell-out crowd, the visitors got off to a strong start, building a 20-point lead in the first half, going 7/10 (70%) from three-point range; Caledonia built their lead through well-balanced scoring.
The Gladiators’ frontline was particularly effective on the night, which would do most of the damage – Ali Frasier, Princeton Onwas and Patrick Tape combined for 28 points in the first half, scoring over half the team’s points.
Narrowly beating the Surrey Scorchers in their most recent fixture, the Sharks were able to mount a few runs throughout the game – with Javion Ogunyemi and Channel Banks Jr proving most effective – scoring 20 and 15, respectively. The hosts were without key players, Saaed Nelson, Kipper Nichols and Nate Montgomery.
Ogunyemi scored the opening pair of free throws before a three-pointer rang through for Caledonia’s Fraser Malcolm. Sharks’ big man Bennett Koch hit a smooth pull-up jumper, and Banks Jr scored off a pin-down screen.
Caledonia were expertly finding mismatches, utilizing their size with Fraser and Tape scoring inside.
Tape rose for a powerful put-back slam over Koch before finishing again on the next play with a two-handed dunk.
However, Sheffield got the last laugh as a Jordan Ratinho buzzer-beater cut the margin to nine points at the end of the first quarter.
Rodney Glasgow Jr. got the visitors off the mark in the second with a baseline floater. Caledonia used a 6-0 run – forcing turnovers and finding three-pointers for Oscar Baldwin and Jordan Burns.
With the home side edging back into the game, Onwas hit a three, and Fraser scored inside to push the lead back to 18. After some confusion on whether the ball was out of bounds, Banks Jr capitalised with a three-pointer. Ogunyemi was mounting some resistance with a second chance bucket.
In the third period, both teams found themselves in a scoring drought. Tape finally broke the chain of misses and ignited the Caledonia offence.
Burns scored five points quickly, adding to his total of 14 points on the night.
The bright spark off the bench for the Sharks was Hensy Sako, who scored three quick points on a couple of coast-to-coast possessions. Tape, who finished with 12, also got another look inside.
In the final period, the Sharks finally got things clicking on offence, outscoring the Gladiators 22-7.
A Malcolm three opened up the final period. Ogunyemi scored five points – responding with a dunk and an and-one before Tape got a tip-in on the other end. The Sharks kept their heads above water, with Rodney Glasgow Jr hitting a couple of three-pointers and Marcus Delpeche picking up a steal and finishing with a dunk.
The Sharks cut the lead to 14, with Delpeche picking up a huge block. However, a 10-0 late run wasn’t enough, as the Gladiators were able to hold on for the win.
Javion Ogunyemi posted 20 points and 10 rebounds for the Sharks.
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