Caledonia Gladiators travelled to their furthest south opponents, Plymouth City Patriots, for the second time in as many weeks, in their second fixture of the British Basketball League Trophy – looking to retain their title and bounce back from their opening day loss vs Cheshire Phoenix.

Gareth Murray’s side were short-handed heading to the Southwest, missing Trent Buttrick, Prince Onwas, and Ian DuBose from their gameday squad.

Despite a Patriots-won tip-off, it was the Gladiators who got going first in the game, with a strong finish by Mike Bothwell, who was making his first start of the season alongside Fraser Malcolm. However, it was former Glasgow Rock Joe Hart who stood out in the opening five minutes, with eight personal points before the media timeout as the Patriots led 14-8. After a few quick plays from new starters Bothwell and Malcolm, alongside Lukas Palyza the Gladiators found themselves back in the game, tied at 14 with three to play in the quarter, recovering the game due to lax defence from the Patriots. It was points from turnovers that told the story of the quarter, with Gladiators leading 3-8 on that front despite being down 20-19 as Patriots led by a single point.

In the second period, Plymouth got off to a strong scoring start thanks to five points from Mason Faulkner, and a three from Elvisi Dusha, with Gladiators failing to score on several possessions thanks to Spencer Levi’s awe-inspiring defense. After three minutes, Patrick Whelan finally got the points going in the quarter for the visitors with a pair of made free throws, cutting the Pats’ lead to 28-21. Following a further few scores from Plymouth, a Patrick Whelan 3 and stops from Clifton Moore Jr. (more aptly called the Block Ness Monster by commentary team, Dan Routledge and Azania Stewart) and Oscar Baldwin, leading to a Kyle Johnson and-one restored faith in the Gladiators’ fans, the score just 32-27 against them. Eventually, with a minute and a half to play, Mike Bothwell’s make from beyond the arc gave the Gladiators their first lead in the quarter, and his first three in his pro career. As the sides headed to the locker room, the scores were level at 40 apiece.

After twenty minutes, Mike Bothwell led all scorers with 13, and Jacob Wiley on 12 led Plymouth. Statistically, the sides were almost exactly equal, reflecting the close nature of the tied game.

Once again, to open the third period, Plymouth City Patriots got off to a hot start, scoring the first six points of the quarter in 90 seconds, forcing a Gareth Murray timeout as his side came out of the break looking slow defensively. Even after the timeout, the Southwest side’s form continued, going 13-0 in the first four minutes before a Lukas Palyza three finally stopped the run. Following a scuffle with Spencer Levi, Czech international Lukas Palyza was given a technical foul, shortly before cutting the Pats’ lead to 7 with an and-one converted from beyond the arc. The lead stayed at around ten, with the teams trading buckets throughout the majority of the third quarter. The sides went a few minutes without any scores from the field, and only free throws went down for both teams. With ten to play, Plymouth maintained a seven-point lead, 60-53.

The Gladiators, staring down the barrel of an 0-2 record, had to get going, and fast, to pick up their first win of the calendar year. The two sides got easy scores to begin the period with some poor defense both ways. A Fahro Alihodzic dunk brought the energy to Caledonia, after a few consecutive buckets from the Pats, but Tyrell Green matched it with a three that got the full Plymouth Pavillions crowd going, taking it to a nine-point game. Gladiators down eight with 2 and a half minutes to play were forced to fight back, but ex-Rock Tyrell Green was on fire and stopped Gladiators’ hopes on numerous occasions. A Patrick Whelan transition three matched it, taking the lead back to 8 with 100 seconds to play. Another ex-franchise player, Joe Hart hit a dagger three, before a scuffle involving Fahro Alihodzic and the Patriots added to the volatile nature of the game. A Palyza three brought the gap to five with 25 seconds to play, but a missed three from him just seconds later sealed the game in favour of Plymouth, 88-81, as Caledonia dropped to 0-2, forcing an extreme challenge to advance in the Trophy competition for Gareth Murray’s side.

In his first start of the season, Mike Bothwell showed out, with a solid 17 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists giving him the Gladiators’ MVP.

Next up, Caledonia welcome Surrey Scorchers to town on 18th January at PlaySport. Get your tickets to the fate-sealing Trophy game HERE!