It was a tough schedule that faced the Plymouth City Patriots over the weekend with back to back games in difficult circumstances that had drama in both matchups up until the final buzzer.
The Patriots, who are currently holding on desperately to the all important eighth spot, which would see them progress into the playoffs, had a must win game Saturday night against the Scorchers in Surrey, before returning home overnight, to face the high flying Caledonia Gladiators the very next day.
With the Newcastle Eagles breathing down their necks from ninth in the league table, the Patriots could not afford to go without a win this weekend. The more likely game for victory seemed to be against bottom of the league Surrey, who have had a tumultuous season so far. The game started with both teams showing signs of nerves with the Scorchers getting the better of the away side leading up to half time, taking a 13 point lead. However, Ralph Bissainthe and Rashad Hassan combined with a run of scores that closed the gap to just 3 points going into the interval.
The Patriots upped their game in the third quarter and took a narrow lead going into the fourth, but the Scorchers fought back. With less than two minutes to play, the game was hanging in the balance although the Patriots managed to edge ahead with the slenderest of margins and with just thirteen seconds on the clock, in desperate need of a score, club captain Elvisi Dusha nailed a jump shot that put the game beyond Surrey. James Hawthorne Jr added an exclamation dunk to seal the deal and despite a last second three pointer from the opposition's Andrew Lawrence, the Patriots took the away win, 87-89.
The Patriots had little time to reflect and headed home that night, to face the recently crowned BBL Trophy Champions, the Caledonia Gladiators, Sunday afternoon at Pavilions. The Patriots were heavy underdogs but took to the floor with a renewed confidence after the previous night. Both teams were missing players due to injury and both had come into the game having won in dramatic fashion. A tough physical game unfolded, with neither side able to take full control of the tie. Despite being underdogs, the plucky Pats managed to lead for the majority of the game and forced the Gladiators to play catch-up. Caledonia always managed to stay in check however, and their championship metal shone through in the latter stages of the game, as they took a narrow 5 point lead with five minutes remaining and never relinquished it. The Patriots battled back, but couldn't close the gap, losing to the Trophy Champs 80-85.
"We won every quarter except the last one, so a tough outcome on that one..." started Otas Iyekekpolor after Sunday's game. He continued"... We had back to back games, but everybody came out and played hard. We shared the ball really well yesterday and today and we did a great job rebounding the ball, but we're getting better and we're improving all the time and hopefully we can finish the season strong and make a run for the playoffs."
Head Coach Paul James was also upbeat after a positive weekend saying, "Saturday was a must win game you know. We needed the win to give us some breathing space between us and
Newcastle. If we can play more like we have these last two days, I have every confidence we'll make the playoffs."
The last words from the weekend belonged to club captain Elvisi Dusha, who is constantly answering his critics with his unselfish style of play, amassing 18 assists over the two games. "The Surrey game was important for us, we knew winning would be pivotal to making the playoffs, now we just need to focus on getting in a good rhythm in these last few games before the playoffs." He added "Everyone played well, everybody wanted to win!"
The Patriots have three league games left before a potential showdown against the London Lions in the first round of the BBL playoffs. They will be at Pavilions on the 16th and 23rd of April taking on the Cheshire Phoenix followed by the Newcastle Eagles in the final game of the regular season.