Plymouth City Patriots 70-96 Bristol Flyers (13-17, 34-39, 48-67)
(Patriots: Williams, 31; Dusha/Hawthorne Jr./Simons, 8; Brandon, 7– Flyers: Bell III/Olison, 17; Watson-Gayle, 14; King, 13)
Newcastle Eagles 94-87 Caledonia Gladiators (23-26, 42-54, 68-68)
(Eagles: Hamlet, 34; Defoe, 20; D. Johnson, 11 — Gladiators: Bailey, 29; Sloan, 19; Burns, 12)
In front of a sell-out crowd, a closely-fought first half was blown open in the third quarter as the Flyers, who had led by five points going into the locker rooms, saw their lead balloon to 21 points heading into the final period.
The gap proved too much for the Patriots as Bristol, who hit ten three-pointers, going 35% from deep, outscored their counterparts 57-36 in the second half.
Thomas Bell III and Tevin Olison paced the winners with 17 points each, with the former pulling down eight rebounds. Jelani Watson-Gayle added 14 and seven assists in the win.
Antonio Williams led all scorers with 31 points for Plymouth but was the only player in double figures for scoring.
The electric atmosphere was reflected on the court as both teams pushed the tempo early. A three-pointer from Watson-Gayle handed Bristol a 7-4 lead after the two sides traded buckets.
The physicality of the first quarter showed its colours; fantastic team basketball, led by Elvisi Dusha, fed Rashad Hassan for the easy lay-up to give Plymouth an 11-9 lead, only for Leslee Smith to knot it up again with a hook.
Only four points separated the two sides at the end of a physical opening period, typical of south-west derbies; however, the fast-paced nature continued in the second.
And it favoured the visitors as they raced to a 23-16 lead early in the second on the back of a Corey Samuels three-pointer.
Bristol were flying, and the Patriots needed a good spell as they missed good looks given to them inside.
A thunderous two-hand slam in transition from Markedric Bell – his only score in the first half – looked to give the hosts the boost they needed, and a further score from Williams gave them a 32-31 lead.
Bristol fought back, though, and they finished the half on a high, taking a five-point cushion to the locker rooms, helped by free throws by Watson-Gayle with 0.2 seconds left.
And sure enough, Bristol’s stranglehold on the game was tightened as their lead grew to double figures as a three at the top from Mike Miller – his first points of the match – gave the Flyers a 49-38 cushion.
The avalanche of points for Bristol kept on coming as the Patriots, despite their best efforts, defensively, were ambushed and heading into the final quarter, the Flyers enjoyed a comfortable 67-48 lead.
The intensity shown in the first three quarters faded away in the last ten, as Plymouth could only get as close as 17 points, whereas Bristol’s lead peaked at 29 thanks to a three from Nassim Ladjimi, giving them bragging rights on the road.
In a game that went down to the wire, the Eagles, who trailed by as many as 12 points, led 88-81 with more than a minute left.
However, Newcastle fans were made to sweat as back-to-back triples from Jordan Burns and Jeremiah Bailey narrowed the gap to 88-87 with 53 seconds left, forcing coach Marc Steutel into a timeout.
The hosts kept their composure with a clutch score from Darius Defoe, mixed with free throws, where the Eagles were 22/28 overall, to score a vital win.
Javion Hamlet led the victors with a 34-point explosion, connecting on all 15 of his free throw attempts – the first to go 15/15 since Leicester’s Bradd Wierzbicki in Janaury 2010 – while shooting 56% from the field. Bailey led the Gladiators’ charge with 29.
And it was Bailey who made the Newcastle fans know his name early with seven quick points early on to help the Gladiators to a 9-2 lead within the first three minutes.
Eagles responded with a blistering 10-2 run, capped off with a score inside by David Cohn, who had a double-double of ten points and ten assists, to hand Newcastle a slender 12-11 advantage.
The intensity was furious, with both teams having no issues scoring as scores for David Sloan and Bailey restored Caledonia’s lead, but the Eagles hit back again as the lead went back and forth.
Caledonia took a narrow 26-23 lead going into the second quarter, and their advantage grew in the second as they started on a 5-0 run to hand them a 31-23 lead.
And back-to-back scores from Fraser Malcolm gave Caledonia a 38-27 cushion with 6:25 remaining in the quarter as Newcastle struggled to find their rhythm.
Hamlet provided offensive firepower for the hosts, but the Gladiators took a comfortable 54-42 lead at the half.
Determined to put the second-quarter performance behind them, Newcastle hit back in the third as a dunk from Hasahn French, followed by a driving lay-up from Cohn, narrowed the gap to 57-53 with 6:11 left.
The visitors managed to hang on to the lead, but the heart of the hosts, buoyed by a boisterous home crowd, proved too much as six points in the final 90 seconds from Defoe gave Newcastle a 68-66 lead.
Sloan tied the game in the final 20 seconds of the quarter to leave the game in the balance heading into the last ten minutes.
The basket from Sloan didn’t stop the Eagles’ momentum as a three from Jermel Kennedy, followed by a short hook from Defoe, gave the hosts a five-point cushion.
Caledonia’s cause was not helped as sandwiched between those scores, Patrick Tape fouled out, leaving coach Gareth Murray with limited options inside.
The guests hit back, making for an exciting conclusion showcasing the best of the BBL.
The exciting rollercoaster of BBL action continues tomorrow. You can watch all games on our YouTube channel. Subscribe here.