Report by Robbie Macdonald
Following last week’s derby victory in the BBL Trophy, it was a return to league action this evening as Caledonia Gladiators played host to the Plymouth City Patriots in search of their first win of 2023 in the competition.
And they duly delivered, delighting their lively support, with a well-fought 96-80 victory at the Emirates Arena.
Both teams started the night level on points with an 8-9 record, with only points difference keeping the Scottish side ahead in sixth position, but it was Caledonia who finished the night with a bit of breathing space in the league table.
The talk of the week was the departure of Jordan Burns who was bought out of his contract by Canadian NBL side, London Lightning. Gladiators remain on the hunt for a replacement. Ali Fraser’s ongoing foot injury kept him out of contention for tonight’s game.
Gladiators started brightly, taking a deserved 24-18 lead in the first quarter. David Sloan was the main factor in this with a brilliant start to the game. The American point guard starred at both baskets scoring 13 points in the opening period, alongside four defensive rebounds.
After their longest trip of the season, nearly 500 miles, the away side were not going to go down without a fight. Within a minute they cut the deficit to just one point through new signing Ty Gadsden. They eventually drew level at 26-26 but a six-point scoring spree from Patrick Tapé regained Gladiators’ lead in the match, a return to his starting five certainly proving effective from Gareth Murray. Patriots kept fighting but the home side found their rhythm and finished the quarter strongly to take a 41-34 lead into half-time.
Caledonia started the second half where they left off, increasing their advantage to 12 within the first two minutes.This lead would soon grow even larger as Sloan and Prince Onwas took full control of the game, trading scores to enhance the host’s lead to 18 at the five-minute mark in the quarter.
The away side’s defensive performance would have particularly disappointed Paul James, however, that takes nothing away from the ruthless finishing of Gareth Murray’s side. The rest of the third quarter was tightly contested but Plymouth failed to make much of a dent in the margin, trailing by 66-52 going into the fourth.
Murray’s side continued in their stride, attacking with confidence and flair to entertain the home fans with some especially exciting basketball that saw their lead reach 22 midway through the quarter. Patriots, to their credit refused to give up but could not find a way back into the match, finishing the night behind by 16.
Caledonia had some outstanding individual performances tonight. However, with 20 points, nine rebounds and five assists Patrick Tapé was awarded game MVP, sponsored by Exceed Footwear.
This result gives Gladiators their first league win in the New Year, keeping them within touching distance of Manchester Giants and cementing their place in the playoff positions.
League action continues next Friday for the Scottish side as they look to build on tonight’s victory. They face Bristol Flyers at Emirates Arena, tip-off at 7:30 pm. Get your tickets HERE!