The final buzzer sounded on Bradford Dragons season on Sunday, as the Reading Rockets overturned a third quarter deficit to record their tenth straight victory in a fiercely contested play-off quarter final fixture, 89-78, at the Rivermead Leisure Centre, in Reading.
The Rockets, who finished third in the final league table, three places above Bradford, had the home court advantage and with a big crowd behind them, it was always going to be a tough battle for the Dragons. However, both sides have been in excellent form in recent weeks and in these one-off, life or death fixtures anything can happen, as was demonstrated earlier in the day when seventh placed Hemel Storm overturned home court advantage at league runners up, Team Solent Kestrel
The home side put the first points on the board, taking a 5-0 lead through Jerrod Hendrix and Declan Soukup, before Jermayne Laing recorded the first points for the Dragons. In Laing scored the first seven points for the Dragons, before Ricky Fetske (sponsored by ALW Guitars) sank his only basket of the game to tie the scores at nine apiece.
Details of Bradford Dragons' playoff quarter final have been confirmed. As suspected. the Dragons will face an away fixture, against third placed Reading Rockets. The game will take place at the Rivermead Leisure Centre, Reading on Sunday 8th April, with a 5pm tip-off.
Reading are unbeaten in their last nine fixtures and will go into the game as clear favourites. However, Chris Mellor's side have also hit form, at the business end of the season, and are currently on a five game winning streak of their own. Fixtures between the two sides have been split 50-50 during the regular season, with the Rockets taking the honours on their patch (95-74) but then Bradford taking the win in the Dragons' Den (82-67). It's all set to be a closely fought contest as the two sides battle for a place in the final fours.
Another of Dragons' junior players, Olufemi Bright has recently been named in the initial England under 15s squad, with training camps to be held on 15 April and 20 May.
Had it not have been for London Lituanica’s untimely exit from the league last September. meaning that only one side will face the drop this season, the Trailblazers would have still been in the midst of a relegation battle.
Bradford, meanwhile, had already secured their berth in the end of season playoff championship, but were playing for league position, in order to ensure the best possible fixture in the quarter finals.
Manchester have been a real thorn in Bradford’s side over the last four seasons, with Bradford failing to record a single victory against them in all that time. However, despite Magic’s win in the Dragons’ Den last month, there were clear signs that the gulf between the two sides had been closed.
However, it should still have been enough to see the game out as Worthing were forced to take one final speculative shot from well within their own half of the court. But just as Zaire Taylor released the ball, Šulcs charged in, making an ill=timed foul and sending the league’s best free throw shooter (average 93%) to the line for three shots.
With the home crowd making as much noise as they could, in an attempt to throw Taylor off balance, he missed the first of his three attempts. He made no mistake with the second, levelling the score and leaving him one more shot to take the win. To the relief of the home crowd, the shot bounced out, off the rim, sending the game into a five-minute period of overtime.
However, on the back of their magnificent double victory, the previous weekend, the Dragons were high in confidence going into this fixture.
It was Bradford who put the first points on the scoreboard, when American Power-Forward, Ricky Fetske (sponsored by ALW Guitars), sank his lay-up for two.
Northumbria hit straight back through Malcolm Smith, but Jermayne Laing quickly restored the Dragons’ advantage, with another lay-up.
However, the Geordie side have found the going tough, in their first season in Division One, with a tally of just seven wins leaving them teetering just above the relegation spots.
Bradford were caught sleeping at the start of the game, finding themselves twelve points down within the first two minutes (12-0). Ricky Fetske (sponsored by ALW Guitars) restored some parity, sinking the Dragons’ first three baskets, however at the halfway point of the opening period Newcastle were still nine points to the good (16-7).
The hosts increased their lead to eleven points, before Bradford then went on an unanswered eleven point run of their own to level the game at eighteen a-piece. Despite such a poor start to the game, the Dragons were ahead at the first buzzer (22-23).
This has not been a great season, by Manchester’s standards in recent seasons and prior to the game they sat behind the Dragons, on points difference, in the league table, albeit with a game in hand. The side that won every trophy going, just two seasons ago, have already lost eight times this season and Bradford would have felt that this was their best opportunity for a long while to record that elusive victory against Paul Middleton’s side.
It’s a massive day for Bradford Dragons Basketball Club as Bradford Council start work on what will become our new home.
With an anticipated 18 month build period, we hope to be in for the start of the 2019/20 season.
CLICK HERE to go to the T & A website for more information
With no game last weekend, members of the Bradford Dragons first team took the opportunity to support the Junior section of the Basketball Club.
Oliver Hylands, Rafi Saipe, Joaquin Calvo, Marcus Gooding, Rihards Sulcs, Eisley Swaine, Jermayne Laing and new signing Disraeli Lufadeju all attended the Junior sessions at Buttershaw Business and Enterprise College on Saturday morning, starting with the under 12’s and Beginners session, which attracts new players to the sport, from seven years old and upwards. The players helped to run the training session, whilst also taking the opportunity to show off some of their own skills, as a means of inspiring the young players.
A number of the under 12s parents commented on how much their children had enjoyed the opportunity to get up close with the first team players and expressed their gratitude to the club’s Head Coach, Chris Mellor, for making it happen.
The players then stayed on to support both the under 14s and under 16s in their league fixtures later that day.
In a highly competitive game of basketball, against York Eagles, the under 14’s unfortunately ended on the wrong side of a 44-63 score-line. However, despite the defeat, Junior Head Coach, Pawel Bohdziewicz, was pleased with both the attitude and the performance of his young players.
The under 16s enjoyed an 82-52 victory over East Durham Lions. Olufemi Bright led the Dragons’ scorers with 24 points, Arnas Kildisas followed up with 22 points and Milos Kangrga also contributed 14 points to the winning total.
Commenting on the days events, Bradford’s American Point Guard, Marcus Gooding stated, “It was an absolute pleasure to take some time away from playing and give back to our Juniors today. They are a great energetic group with loads of genuine love for the game of basketball.
“It was refreshing to share the knowledge that I’ve grasped throughout my career, thus far, with the kids.
“I feel that this will strengthen the bond between the juniors and our Division One team, as together we go hand in hand into the future of the Bradford Dragons.”
These sentiments were echoed by under 16s player, Bright, who said, “It was really nice to see the Division One players coming to our sessions and supporting the next generation of players. They are really helpful and encouraging and I hope that we see more of them in the future.”
The senior players are now preparing themselves for a tough ‘War of the Roses’ clash, against their Lancashire rivals Manchester Magic, this coming Sunday. Bradford have not had a great run of results against the Magic in recent seasons, having not taken a win against them since January 2015. However, Manchester have not enjoyed the best of seasons this time around and currently sit two points and two places behind the Dragons in the league table, albeit with two games in hand. Bradford will feel that this is their best opportunity in a long while to get the better of the 2016 quadruple winning side, and a win will also maintain their league position above them.
The game takes place in the Dragons’ Den (Bradford College Sports Hall, Trinity Road, Bradford) and tips off at 4:15pm. Advance ticket sales are available via the club website (http://www.bradforddragons.co.uk/tickets.html).