In the BBL, the month of January has been dedicated to the Trophy competition, the leagues only stand alone, in-season competition, after the abolition of the BBL Cup. The Plymouth City Patriots would relish the opportunity to start afresh, with the prospect of progressing as far as they can in the competition. The group stages of the competition tipped off this weekend and the Patriots started their campaign Sunday night, against the reigning Trophy Champions, the Caledonia Gladiators. The Gladiators, based in Glasgow, had already suffered a close-fought overtime defeat at the hands of the Cheshire Phoenix and headed to Plymouth, keen to gain their first win in the competition.

The early signs were positive for the neutral fan, as the two teams traded baskets from the off. The home side perhaps looked the more composed of the two teams, always managing to maintain a slender advantage over their visitors. The Gladiators, who were missing a number of players due to illness and injury, kept in touch however, making every point and turnover valuable. Towards the end of the first half, the visitors found their range and managed to take their own slender lead, before TJ Atwood sank two free throws, tying the game 40-40 going into the interval.

The Patriots came out strong at the beginning of the second half, and managed to sprint out to a 10 point lead. The Gladiators held firm however, and managed to chip away at the home side's advantage, reducing the lead to 7 points, setting up a tense fourth quarter for the home fans. The Patriots managed to hold onto a near double figure lead throughout, despite the Gladiators bearing down on them with the constant threat of closing the gap. That is until the game reached the 1 minute 20 second mark and up stepped Joe Hart with a dagger three pointer from the corner, to put the game beyond the visiting Gladiators. The last minute was a formality, as the Patriots ran the clock down. The Gladiators hit some big shots down the stretch, but the Patriots proved to be in complete control, final score 88-81.

Jacob Wiley was named player of the game, finishing with 20 points, seven rebounds and two blocks, whilst the team captain Elvis Dusha also started 2024 off with a great game, finishing with 17 points and eight assists. “Unbeaten in the Trophy, who'd have thought we would be able to say that,” started Dusha, post game. He continued “everyone played well today and we made some big shots. We've now won two in a row and it's very positive.”

Head coach Paul James was also pleased with the win, saying ”we’ve played really well of late, playing some really good team basketball. The difference is now that we're sharing the ball and actually making shots. Also I think our defensive effort was excellent tonight.” With reference to progressing further in the competition, coach James continued “we said from the start, if we want to go into the next round we have got to win our home games... And what a New Year's present for our superb fans.”

Next week the Patriots take on the Surrey Scorchers at home, before having to head north to face the Cheshire Phoenix with less than 24 hours in-between. For now at least, the Patriots are unbeaten in the Trophy and keen to remain unbeaten in 2024. Pick up your tickets here.

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