Bradford Dragons got their season back on track, with a moral boosting victory over division one rivals Reading Rockets (82-67), in the Dragons Den on Saturday evening.
The game was not originally due to take place until February, however the Dragons scheduled fixture against Manchester Magic was postponed, due to the Lancashire side’s involvement in the National Cup semi-final on the same day.
The teams had only recently met in Reading, with the Rockets inflicting a heavy, twenty-one-point defeat upon Bradford, since which the Dragons have lost four from five subsequent league fixtures. In contrast, the Rockets were sitting comfortably, with a record of seven wins from nine for the season so far.
It was the Berkshire side that put the first points on the board, Sydney Donaldson sinking his two-point jump shot. Rafi Saipe (sponsored by Made4Fighters) levelled, almost immediately before Rihards Šulcs (Sponsored by Templewood Photography) gave the hosts the lead.
American, Tim Gill squared things up for Reading, being fouled in the process by Fetske. Gill sank the resultant free throw to reclaim the lead, before Eisley Swaine took it back for the Dragons. Jerrod Hendrix then hit a two, to put the Rockets back in front, with three minutes played, but that was to be the final time that they would see the summit.
The Dragons opened a nine-point first quarter lead (20-11) and although the visitors managed to claw some back before the buzzer, the hosts were still holding a five-point advantage at the end of the opening period (23-18).
As in the first quarter, the Rockets hit back at them and when the buzzer sounded for half-time the damage had been limited to seven points (46-39).
At the start of the third, Reading’s Ed Potter was almost immediately pulled up for a technical foul. Saipe uncharacteristically missed the resultant free throw, however he made up for it instantly with another three-point basket.
The Dragons continued to pressure and three minutes into the second half theit lead was up to seventeen (56-39). However, the Rockets were not done yet and they went on an unanswered nine-point run of their own, to pull back to within eight (56-48).
Fetske hit a three to put the lead back into double figures, however Hendrix closed the period with two from the line, to keep the visitors in touch (60-51).
As any Bradford supporter will tell you, the Dragons never seem to make things easy for themselves and this game was to be no different. Only two and a half minutes into the penultimate period, Potter made his lay-up to reduce the gap to just four points, setting heart beats racing amongst the locals.
However, the visitors were the architects of their own undoing. With just over three minutes remaining, Gill, who had been a significant presence for the Rockets, was called for his fifth foul, resulting in his ejection from the game.
Both Swaine and Šulcs scored 19 points each, whilst the official Taco Bell Player of the Game, Fetske contributed a further 18 points.
For the visitors, Hendriks also scored 19 points and Gill followed up with 16 points.
A triumphant Bradford coach, Chris Mellor commented after the game, “It was a good team performance. We were tough defensively and we competed well on the boards. I was pleased with our composure and our discipline and it was exactly what we needed after losing three straight.”
The Dragons’ final game of 2017 is at red rose rivals, Lancashire Spinners next Saturday (7pm). The Spinners are yet to win a game this season and will be eager to get some points on the board before the Christmas break. However, Bradford will be hopeful of finishing the year on a high.
Dragons’ under 14s endured another defeat in what has been a tough season for their inexperienced side. They went down 58-69 in an exciting home fixture against Chesterfield Flight.
Meanwhile, a depleted under 16s side travelled to pace setters Tees Valley Mohawks. In what has been an otherwise largely successful season for the under 16s, they were on the wrong end of 71-26 whitewash.
Photographs © Alex Daniel Photography