But Manchester, weren’t to be behind for long and quickly piled up the baskets to build up a six-point lead. That lead was soon extended to 15 points and it was only some clinical three-point shooting from Gooding that kept the home side within contention, bulling it back to six-points at the first scheduled interval. The first quarter ended with the Dragons trailing by 21 points to 27.
Whatever, Bradford threw at their visitors, Manchester had an answer and as the teams left the court at the end of the second quarter, Magic’s lead had been stretched to eleven points, 42-53.
Coach Mellor needed to steady the ship and whatever he said to his players during the break clearly did the trick as, half way through the third period, Manchester’s lead had been trimmed to four points (56-60) with the Dragons clearly in the ascendency. But once again, Manchester gained some momentum and by the time the quarter finished the gap was back to twelve (65-73).
The Dragons never caved in, unlike so often the case during their previous campaign and once again they carved into Magic’s lead to bring the game back within reach, but Manchester’s superiority was never in doubt and they finished the game on a real flurry and returned back across the Pennines as victors, 85-99. But despite the opening day loss, the Dragons are looking a much more solid unit this time around and can take many positives from the game, not least Gooding’s three-point shooting, taking a total of 25 points of which 21 were from beyond the three-point line.
However, it was Dragons’ longest serving player, Rihards Sulcs who finished with a game high of 28 points, whilst also taking 8 rebounds.
Dragons’ head coach, Chris Mellor reflected on the game, saying, “We didn’t get off to a great start and were pretty much playing catch up the rest of the way really. We cut the lead numerous times to four or five points in the second half but they came up with scores at the right time to stop our momentum.”
Dragons now travel to Team Northumbria, in Newcastle next Sunday before returning to the Dragons Den the following Saturday for their final National Trophy group game, against Lancashire Spinners – a game that will see the return of former Dragon and England Under 18 International, Zion Tordoff.
Tordoff will be joined on the next England Under 18’s camp by current Dragon, Eisley Swaine, a former teammate of his in the Dragons’ junior ranks. Swaine makes the jump from the England under 17’s team into the higher age bracket.
In other news, the Dragons had four of their junior players (Joe Barrett, Haben Malcolm-Warner, Alex Gabbitas and Samuel David) in the Yorkshire under 15’s team at Basketball England’s Regional Development Tournament, on Saturday and Sunday. Yorkshire won all four of their group matches on Saturday, but then lost the semi-final match against London, who went on to win the tournament, on Sunday. Yorkshire then won the third and fourth place playoff game, to finish the tournament in a very respectable third position.
Photographs © ALEX DANIEL PHOTOGRAPHY