The Manchester Giants fronted up against the Caledonia Gladiators for the first of four league meetings this season, edging the visitors out 95-94 with a string of clutch plays in the final moments.

 

William Lee made his long awaited return to the team and was thrown straight back into the starting  lineup – he wasted no time in draining a deep three for his first points in the BBL since he went down injured against the London Lions back in October 2022.

Dirk Williams added a three and a physical and-one layup on his way to leading the Giants in scoring with ten points at the end of the first.

But it was the Scottish outfit who were ahead at the first interval, leading 25-35 on the back of 14 points and five rebounds from guard Princeton Onwas.

Vince Macaulay’s men grew into the game with each passing possession as Tajh Green, Lee and Rahmon Fletcher ended the half with eight points each.

Lee and Green made their presence known on the defensive end, contributing five defensive rebounds each by half-time.

However, it was Coach Gareth Murray’s men who led 48-55 at the break as they continued their drive-and-kick strategy, sharing the ball at every opportunity, and by half-time every player on their roster who had checked into the game had added points.

Onwas and his fellow guard Jeremiah Bailey led the visitors’ scoring with 14 points apiece by the time the half-time buzzer sounded.

It was the Giants who took their turn to create momentum as they came out firing in the third, continuing to chip away at the Glasgow outfit’s lead, narrowing the deficit to just two points within four minutes of play.

And it was Lee – the man at the center of the action – that would eventually give Giants the lead at 72-71 as he drove to the basket for a crafty layup.

Go-ahead threes from Williams and Fletcher edged the Giants in front as they went into the final quarter with a narrow three point lead at 77-74.

The stage was set for a tense finale, and a series of lead changes with few defensive stops meant Coach Macaulay called a time out with the Gladiators ahead by one with three minutes to play.

A huge three-pointer by the Giants’ top scorer on the night Williams – with a Gladiator hand mere centimetres from his face – made it a one possession game.

The former London Lion would hit another crucial three – his sixth successful make from seven on the night – on his way to a game-high 25 points.

Out of the last timeout of the game, Gladiators’ guard David Sloan attacked the lane with just seconds to play – only for paint protector Green to swat his effort away, and secure the one point victory for the Giants!

Pure box office entertainment at Belle Vue – and the perfect springboard for the second game of the first home double-header of 2023 on Sunday afternoon against the Bristol Flyers.

Speaking after the game returning big man Lee, who put up 13 points and seven rebounds in 25 minutes of play, said: “It felt great to be back out there with the guys and having fun and not giving them water – actually helping them out on the court!

“Coach told me on Tuesday that I’d be back in the starting line up. I was actually thinking I was going be coming off the bench because of minutes restrictions but it’s just like riding a bicycle. Everything just clicked and came back naturally to me,” he added.

“I could’ve had like six blocks tonight but I was just a second late on my timing – the more I play the more I’ll get it back.”

Tickets are available for our next home game. The Bristol Flyers on March 8th: https://manchestergiants.com/tickets/

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Words – Nathan Blackwood