The Plymouth City Patriots were in action Sunday afternoon, taking on the star studded Manchester Giants in front of a packed out Pavilions crowd, in an exciting close fought game of basketball.
The teams had met twice so far this season and before tip off it was one win a piece for each side, with a chance for both teams to take a lead in the series. As such, it was a fast paced and highly competitive matchup, with both teams showing plenty of talent on offence and determination on defence.
The Patriots did manage to have a slight advantage in the early exchanges, and took a four point lead into the second quarter. The home side piled on the pressure and behind rookie Markedric Bell, took a ten point lead heading towards the half time break. It would be Markedrics last game this season, with the club releasing him due to a family related concern back home in Mississippi. The Giants turned up the intensity however, reducing the home team's advantage to just two points by half time.
The second half started as the first half left off, with both teams trading baskets and heading into the business end of the game locked firmly at 61 points each. The intensity from both teams saw the next five minutes continued in the same vein, with both teams exchanging baskets, until the visitors Nick Lewis and Dirk Williams knocked down key baskets, opening up a 5 points lead. The game hung in the balance, as both teams had opportunities to effect the outcome, until Manchester Giants big man, William Lee iced a three point dagger, with less than a minute on the clock. The game was just out of the Patriots reach and despite the imminent result, the home fans rose to their feet to give their hard working team a standing ovation as the final buzzer sounded, finishing 87-77 in favour of the visitors.
Positives from the Patriots included stand out performances from Rashad Hassan and team captain Elvisi Dusha, both finishing with a double double, but the standout performance was perhaps that of Markedric Bell, who poured in three three pointers and a tremendous dunk, over the oppositions seven foot center, Legend Robertin.
“I thought for three quarters we played ok, with good pace and tempo,” started Head Coach Paul James in a post game interview. He continued, “In the fourth quarter I think we looked nervous and played not to lose the game, as opposed to playing to win and Dirk [Williams] came up with some big shots... And they made some big plays down the stretch and put it out of our reach.”
Elvisi Dusha was also frustrated at the outcome, saying “I feel like we gave them the game. They made some big shots, but we created too many turnovers in the fourth and I personally felt I got a little bit tired as well.” Dusha played last weekend with flu-like symptoms and was clearly still feeling the effects, adding “I still don’t feel too well now, but it is what it is.”
The last word however, belongs to Markedric Bell, who will be sorely missed by the club and fans alike. “I would like to thank all the fans for their love and support today,” said Bell post
game. He continued, “it’s been heartwarming. I’ve been trying to hold back the tears all day. I wish my teammates all the best for the rest of the season. I'll be rooting from home and thank you to them for pushing me every day to be the best I can be. Major thanks to the fans and the organisation though... I’m lost for words.” Bell was surrounded by fans, both young and old and embraced by all until he finally left the court some fifty minutes after the end of the game. His one lasting image before he headed to the dressing room was that of Markedric giving one young fan his game-worn sneakers, which he signed and handed to her in an emotional end to his Patriots season.