479 miles on the road for Gareth Murray’s squad saw them travel to Plymouth Pavillions to take on Paul James’ City Patriots in a festive special just two days before Christmas, as Caledonia made their longest journey south in the British Basketball League.
Following forty minutes of intense action, the hosts came out with a crucial 87-80 win, off the back of an impressive all-round game – leading for the majority of it, heading into Christmas with a crucial two points in the British Basketball League table for their third win of the campaign.
Ahead of the action, the Patriots were fresh off a tough 71-65 loss to Surrey Scorchers on the road just 24 hours prior. Gladiators were looking to pick up form heading into a busy spell, with their last game being a win against Surrey, 72-80, also at the Sports Park in Guildford last week.
With a Clifton Moore-won tip-off, it was Jacob Wiley who got the scoring underway with a singular free throw made after a minute, being the only point of the opening 170 seconds until a trademark alley-oop from Plymouth’s Texan forward. The Pats hosted a “block party”, with four deflections, including three consecutive ones, denying Gladiators a bucket for the opening five minutes, forcing a Gareth Murray timeout – Plymouth leading 8-0. Eventually, it was Lukas Palyza who got the game going for Caledonia, with a deep three to open the Scots’ accounts. Patriots’ electrifying start to the ball game proved enough to maintain their lead after ten, 21-17, the Gladiators’ slight comeback by Fraser Malcolm’s six points off the bench.
The second quarter started with a similar defensive showcase, this time by the Gladiators – with Buttrick having two rejections in one possession within the opening minute. The two sides battled bucket-for-bucket, more than the opening period with Plymouth slightly expanding upon their lead as the quarter continued. A Jules Dang-Akodo three-ball was the dagger that forced a Gareth Murray timeout halfway through the second as his side stared into the eyes of a double-digit deficit, down 33-23. Despite some fightback from the visitors, the Patriots remained comfortable, heading into the locker rooms up 14, 46-32 – their biggest lead of the half.
Caledonia, traditionally a strong shooting side, were weaker than usual from three, shooting only 20% or 3/15 from beyond the arc.
Lukas Palyza opened the second half scoring with a three-ball just seven seconds in, significantly quicker than the sides’ start to the game. Caledonia’s woes continued, as their poor shooting remained prevalent, and Gareth Murray was given a technical foul early into the period. At the halfway point in the third, Plymouth showed their class, contrary to the league standings, as they dominated the visitors in most statistical categories. After thirty minutes, Plymouth led by 13, 55-68.
Swiftly in the final period, Caledonia gained momentum with several quick buckets. After 90 seconds, Gladiators cut the Patriots’ lead to single figures, as they looked to fight back into the ball game. Perhaps for the first time in the fixture, the Gladiators looked positive, with strong defensive and offensive play cutting down their earlier deficit. Joe Hart’s high-arching mid-range take brought momentum back to the Pavillions before Prince Onwas’ three-ball and Clifton Moore’s fast-break dunk silenced the Plymouth crowd once more – the lead reduced to 2 with the Gladiators on a 2-13 run in the first four minutes of the quarter. Some agonisingly close misses from Caledonia and huge makes from Plymouth increased the Pats’ lead to 9 with a minute to play. By the end, Plymouth came out with a slim, yet well-deserved victory, coming out with a 7-point advantage, 87-80.
Next up for Gladiators, after a two-day long Christmas break, the side welcomes Manchester Giants to PlaySport on Boxing Day, with limited tickets available HERE!