Saturday night’s game presented itself as a battle between two legendary veterans of the game, with 37 year old ‘Big Mike’ Bernard of the Lancashire Spinners facing up against the Dragons’ Jason Swaine, age 40.
The Spinners went into the game with an unblemished record in the National Trophy, having won all four of their previous fixtures in the competition, their only defeat so far this season coming after overtime, in a league fixture at Reading Rockets.
However, after the break it was the Bury side that took control of the game, overpowering their hosts and building up a twelve point advantage, 82-70, by the end of the third quarter. The lead stretched to sixteen points, early in the final period, and it looked as though the Dragons fire had been firmly extinguished. However, in the final five minutes of the game the Dragons suddenly sprang into action, closing down the Spinners offence, whilst going on a scoring spree of their own to tie the scores at 95 apiece, to set up a tense final minute.
But, the visiting team dug deep in the final few seconds, taking a three point lead and then closing down Bradford’s attempt to tie the game, closing the game with a fifth victory in the competition, 98-101.
Henri Bongoma led the scoring for the Dragons with 24 points, with Nick Moore close behind on 22 points, who also took a staggering 20 rebounds. Jason Swaine won the battle of the old-timers, completing 37 minutes of the game and scoring 16 points whilst, in comparison, Bernard played for only 7 minutes of the game taking only 2 points.
On Sunday, the Dragons returned to the Amaechi Basketball Centre in Manchester, where they had suffered a 17 point defeat only a week earlier.
The previous evening’s efforts had clearly taken their toll on Jason Swaine, who joined Adria Rodriguez Vinas, Rihards Sulcs and Przemyslaw Wojcik on Bradford’s injury list, giving sixteen year old Eisley Swaine the opportunity to step up into the starting five.
The two sides traded baskets for the first five minutes, with both Henri Bongoma and Rafi Saipe sinking three pointers for Bradford. However, this game was always going to be a tough ask for the Dragons and by the end of the opening quarter their hosts had opened up a thirteen point gap, with the scores at 32-19. Manchester continued to pile on the points into the second period, increasing their lead to twenty-two points. But the Dragons hit back with a mini flurry of their own to pull the deficit back to fourteen, 50-36, as the teams went back to the locker room at half time.
But Manchester’s dominance continued in the third quarter, as they soon built up a massive twenty-four point advantage. Despite Bradford’s best efforts they were still down by twenty at the end of the penultimate period, 71-51.
With young Swaine in danger of fouling out, the Dragons were forced to blood another of their junior players in Calum O’Dowd. The rookie did everything that was asked of him as the Dragons pushed to claw back the deficit. Some strong defensive play, combined with a reinvigorated offence, saw the Dragons pull to within nine points. However, ultimately Magic proved to be too powerful, finishing the fixture as convincing winners, 85-70.
Once again, Henri Bongoma led the Dragons scoring, taking another 24 points on a weekend that saw him hitting eight three point shots from ten attempts. Nick Moore followed up with 19 points, whilst Rafi Saipe added 13 to the Dragons total.
Head coach, Chris Mellor, reflected on the weekend action saying, “It’s two losses over the weekend and once again there are many positives in lots of areas. But, rebounding the ball in both games cost us dearly and that’s the main area for us to improve upon, right now.”
Despite the losses, the Dragons are still in contention for a place in the quarter finals, currently sitting fourth in the Northern Pool table. However, they must win their final group game against Derby Trailblazers, which takes place next Saturday in the Dragons’ Den (tip-off 6:15pm).
In other news, Dragons Under 16’s beat Leicester Warriors, 81-55, at Buttershaw Business and Enterprise Centre in a lunchtime tip-off on Saturday.
Photo Credit to Alex Daniel Photography ©
Photo Credit to Adrian Lee West - Templewood Photography ©