Defeats by twenty points plus were the norm whenever the Dragons faced their Lancashire rivals last season, as Manchester took a clean sweep of all four domestic competitions. The two teams also met in the opening game of this season’s National Trophy, with Manchester again getting the better of Bradford (85-99). However, this time around, following a much better assault on this seasons league season, the Dragons were full of confidence that they could at last get the better of their opponents.
However, in the opening three minutes it appeared that it was going to be the same again, with Manchester rocketing into a ten to nothing lead, as their hosts were caught napping, forcing the Bradford bench to call for an early time out. It was a timely intervention, as the Dragons finally got into their stride and at the end of the quarter the damage had been limited to just five points, 20-25.
The pre-game optimism seemed to be well founded as the Dragons bossed the opening five minutes of the second quarter, forcing Manchester’s head coach, Paul Middleton, to call for time, with his side now trailing, 32-31. And although the game remained close, when the teams left the court, at half time, Bradford had extended the gap to three points, 41-38.
Levazeux scored again, this time with a slam dunk, early in the final quarter, to reduce the deficit, only to have a technical foul awarded against him for over exuberantly hanging on to the rim of the basket. The two teams matched each other shot for shot and three minutes in, a Marcus Gooding three-pointer saw Manchester’s advantage down to a single point, 70-71. But that was as good as it would get for Bradford.
Another succession of missed chances by the home side, saw Magic’s lead increase to nine points with only three and a half minutes remaining. However, a minute later, a couple of three point scores saw Bradford were right back in it, at 76-79. As the game reached its climax, Bradford were forced to give away fouls, in an attempt to gain back possession, but with Manchester sinking from the free throw line there was no way back for the hosts. Manchester closed the game out as victors, 79-86, however credit goes to both teams for producing such a thrilling game of basketball.
Gooding headed the scoring for Bradford Dragons, with 19 points, whilst also contributing 10 assists. Saipe weighed in with 14 points, as did Ricky Fetske, whilst Rihards Sulcs and Jermayne Laing also chipped in with 12 and 11 points respectively.
Top scorer, Gooding, commented after the game, “We started off really slow, which allowed Manchester to gain confidence, but we regrouped well and were able to take the lead going into the half. I knew it was going to be a tough second half and that the game could go either way. We just didn’t keep them off the glass well enough when we most needed. Offensive rebounds hurt us, for sure and we also gave some crucial turnovers that were non-characteristic of us.”
Gooding’s fellow American, Fetske added, “It was a disappointing result to Manchester, as we made too many mistakes that they capitalised on. Manchester had a strong game plan and it was an uphill battle in the fourth quarter, trying to regain the lead that we relinquished in the third. However, there are positives that we can take from the game; including improved rebounding from previous weeks and effective transition defence throughout. We will be building upon these positives going into our final two games before the Christmas break.”
Next Saturday, the Dragons travel to Leicester Warriors (3pm) following which they will finish their 2016 schedule at Hemel Storm on Saturday 17th December (7pm).
Following the Christmas break, Bradford’s season resumes at London Lituanica on January 8th. The action then comes back to the Dragons’ Den on January 14th, when Derby Trailblazers will be the visitors.
Photographs © ALEX DANIEL PHOTOGRAPHY