Bradford Dragons paid the price for a disastrous opening four minutes, on Saturday night, suffering a heavy defeat (115-90) at the hands of Thames Valley Cavaliers.
The Dragons made the long journey to Uxbridge on the back of a home defeat to Team Newcastle University, the previous weekend and with obvious questions regarding how the recent departure of American point guard Drexler Clark will affect the balance of the team.
Bradford got off to the worst possible start in the game going down 17-0 within the first three and a half minutes, thanks to five successive three pointers, from Walid Mumuni, Martelle McLemore (x2) and Aiden Saunders (x2), with McLemore also adding a two-point layup.
Thames Valley, however, showed far superior shooting ability on the night and by the time the buzzer sounded they had once again extended their lead to eighteen (38-20).
Fetske sank the first points of the second quarter, as the Dragons set about reducing the deficit, having set themselves a target of being within ten points at half time. However, it seemed as though each time Bradford reduced the gap, Thames Valley would pick up the pace and extend it back out. Albeit, with just 17 seconds remaining to the half time interval, it seemed as though the Dragons had achieved their target, when a Šulcs layup reduced the margin to just nine points. However, McLemore, who had been a thorn in Bradfords side throughout, spoilt the party with another lay-up. The teams went back to the locker rooms with the Cavaliers holding an eleven-point advantage (58-47).
After the break Fetske sank a couple of early twos, and with contributions from Jermayne Laing and Šulcs the gap was reduced to just six points, after just two minutes of the second half. If Thames Valley had been caught sleeping, this gave them the wakeup call that they needed, going on a scoring spree of their own and, despite all of Bradford’s hard work in reducing the deficit, the Cavaliers ended the penultimate period with a practically unassailable twenty-four-point advantage.
Šulcs, as has so often been the case this season, led the Bradford scorers, along with Fetske, both players netting 23 points apiece. Lycoudis also contributed a creditable 17 points and Saipe chipped in with another 11 points.
However, the Dragons were beaten right across the court, with Thames Valley producing some impressive statistics. They out-rebounded their guests by 43 to 17, assists 25 to 11 and most telling of all a shooting percentage of 71% compared to Bradford’s 49%. Top scorer for the hosts was McLemore with a staggering 44 points (including 8 three-pointers), assisted by Abdoulaye Sylla with 28 points.
The defeat (115-90) drops the Dragons four places in the league table, to eighth, with Team Newcastle University breathing heavily down their neck to steal the coveted top eight positions.
Bradford head coach, Chris Mellor commented, “We got off to a terrible start but regrouped well. We were back in the game in the third, but it ran away from us again and on the night Thames Valley shot a very high percentage and we just couldn’t match them.
Mellor now has two weeks to prepare his team for their toughest challenge yet, when the leagues only remaining unbeaten side, Team Solent Kestrels visit the Dragons Den on December 15th. Whether the Dragons can regain their form from earlier in the season is yet to be seen, however either way this is sure to be a spectacular fixture.
The game tips off at 6:15pm and tickets are available via the Dragons’ website.
Photographs © Alex Daniel Photography