Caledonia Gladiators
London Lions

London Lions Injury Hit Squad Lose Low-Scoring 50-52 BBL Trophy Close Encounter to Caledonia Gladiators. Josh Ward-Hibbert Contributes 14 Points and 8 Rebounds to Hard-Fought Slug-Fest

Ryan Schmidt’s restructured starting five began the game going shot-for-shot during a largely scrappy opening half of the first period, which saw the Lions concede five costly turnovers. During this unfortunate run, the Lions were trailing 10-9 to the club formally known as the Glasgow Rocks.

Recent Caledonia signing Aljami Durham extended the Scottish advantage to 12-9 via a layup off a pretty dime from teammate Kyle Jimenez. However, the introduction to the game of Aaron Best at the 03:28 mark, followed by Zamoku Weluche and Josh Sharma, turned things around. The Londoners spent the next three and a half minutes compiling an 8-2 surge which saw them take a three-point, 14-17 lead going into the second quarter.

Like the first quarter, the opening minutes of the second period was a scrappy and low-scoring affair that saw the Lions extend their lead to 18-23. Undeterred, Caledonia shooting guard Princeton Onwas closed the gap to three points which Ivory Coast national player Patrick Tapé followed with an energy-stealing two-handed dunk (22-23).

The Glasgow-based outfit then went on a rock-solid 9-3 charge to see out the half and claim a 31-26 lead. Mo Soluade and Josh Ward-Hibbert were the only Lions players to record any points during that period. 

The UK’s capital representatives and the Scottish ambassadors continued to trade buckets (but also struggle to hit shots) well into the third quarter, with Aljami Durham taking centre stage, scoring his team’s first six points. Vojtech Hruban’s layup at the 06:33 mark of the first was the last time the Lions hit a shot from open play. 

Although the Gladiators extended their advantage to 41-33, they struggled to push their lead further, missing several shots and turning the ball over towards the end of the quarter.

Veteran combo guard and GB national star Luke Nelson opened the fourth quarter with a much-needed triple to cut the Scottish lead to two points (41-39). After Josh Ward-Hibbert knocked down both of his charity stripe jumpers to tie the ball game, Josh Sharma stole the rock off Tapé and glided to the basket for a breakaway fast-break dunk to give London a 41-43 lead. 

However, the lead quickly evaporated on behalf of the free-throw line exploits of Durham and the errand calls that put him there. Poor long-distance shooting and turnovers once again plagued both sides, especially London. 

However, with one minute and twenty-one seconds left on the clock, rookie guard Zamoku Weluche put the Lions up 46-47 when he hit a much-needed triple off Soluade’s heroic offensive rebound. Tapé replied less than twenty seconds later with a low-post bucket causing Head Coach Ryan Schmidt to call a timeout.

Schmidt’s ATO action didn’t go quite to plan. Although Ward-Hibbert correctly faked the dribble-hand-off, he missed his heavily contested layup. Caledonia skipper Jonny Bunyan and Ward-Hibbert traded free-throw buckets until the last ten seconds of the fourth period, with the Gladiators owning a 52-49 advantage. 

However, Bunyan was almost the villain after he sent Soluade to the line for two free throws. Instructed by Ryan Schmidt, Soluade hit the first shot and purposely missed the second so the Lions could get the rebound for the game's last shot. The Lions grabbed the offensive board and passed it to Bradley Kaboza for a 3-point shot. Unfortunately, Kaboza missed the shot, and the officials missed the foul on him, which would have sent him to the line.

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