The Plymouth City Patriots were in action over the weekend in a double header, taking on the second place Bristol Flyers in the South West Derby on Friday night, followed on Sunday by taking on the first place London Lions.
Friday night was something of a sombre affair. The Plymouth faithful, who packed Pavilions from the opening tip, certainly gave support to their team throughout, despite the team falling to an early 18 point deficit. It proved to be a frustrating evening as nothing seemed to drop for the Patriots, whilst their South West rivals managed to knock down shot after shot, finishing the game at 53% from three point territory. The Flyers took a dominant win, 108-93.
Post game, the Patriots players were certainly demoralised and what's more, they were staring down the barrel of another potentially tough night Sunday against the Lions. "They hit every shot, and we could stop them," started team captain Elvisi Dusha, clearly frustrated at the result. He continued, "as a team, we're still trying to find our identity. Before, we were a bunch of dogs that cared about defence and fought. We can be that again, but this new team needs to find its niche." And he's right. Even head coach Paul James agreed, adding that "it's like pre-season again. We need to have a bit more fight on defence, and we'll need to raise our game ahead of the Lions game."
Needless to say, there was little expectation ahead of the Lions game. Instead perhaps some trepidation toward the fixture, and what the outcome may be. The Lions are the best team in the country, with their eyes set on the much larger prize of success in European competition, namely the EuroCup. As a result the players they have recruited are of a high standard and evidently some of the best players the league has ever witnessed since the league's hayday, over two decades preseeding.
Once again, a sold out Pavilions played its part in spurring on the team in teal and black and after one quarter the score was tied at 16 points a piece. Coach Paul James's choice to start all three of his newest signings, Ty Garden, Jawaun Daniels and Jules Dang-Akodo prove to be a master stroke, as the new look lineup fought tooth and nail to remain in touching distance of the recently crowned BBL CUP Champion Lions. At half time the score was a respectable 43-32 with the Patriots showing plenty of fight and potential. The third quarter began with a barrage of three pointers from the Lions and a series of epic defence that saw them increase their lead to 25 points. The Patriots looked dead and hurried, but not without fight. They continued to battle away against their Goliath like opponents and managed to score on consecutive plays towards the end of the third quarter, closing the 25 point gap to 17 points. The home side now faced a mountain to climb, should they manage to turn the game around. Thanks to Jawaun Daniels, the Patriots did mount an impossible comeback. He scored the bulk of his 16 points in the fourth quarter and led the charge to close the gap to just 6 points with time remaining. Despite their rally and the crowd urging them on, the Lions proved to have too much firepower and as the clock expired, it was the visitors that took the win 88-79.
The Patriots received a standing ovation and both coaches and players were more than happy with the result. Assistant coach Joe Hart said "we found some identity in this game. Played
great defence and showed heart against a dominant team." Rashad Hassan also seemed up beat. He'd already had a 32 point performance against the Bristol Flyers and against the Lions he notched up 25, in a classic performance. "Last time we played these two teams I was under the weather. I kept that in my back pocket as motivation," said Hassan post game, adding "I'm working hard everyday to prove I'm the best big man in the league."
The Patriots have a great account of themselves and moving forward could pose a problem for future opposition.