Bradford have been the highest scorers in the National Basketball league this season, currently averaging just short of 95 points per game. Much of this scoring prowess has been down to American point guard, Marcus Gooding, who has thrilled spectators with his accuracy from beyond the three-point line. However, Gooding took his performance to a whole new level, against Hemel, hitting an incredible 45 points in a game which could quite easily have slipped out of the Dragon’s grasp.
Gooding commented on social media, following his achievement, “Basketball is a really mental game, not only on the court but also through preparation and visualisation – the way you see yourself as a player is how you will (eventually) play - IF you invest the work to get there of course. It's that simple ... it may not come into fruition until maybe 1,2,3 years down the line but you gotta truly believe in your head that you can get to where you want. I was maybe a lil delusional back then but I saw myself scoring 45 three years ago, in my mind. So, it's not a surprise to me, I'm not shocked, I'm not satisfied. Nobody believed in me more than myself. Finally joined the #40Club … #50Club up next.”
Jermayne Laing then missed a three-point attempt for the Dragons, allowing Hemel to level the score down the other end of the court before Gooding opened his account with the first of his three-pointers. The opening quarter was played at a frantic pace, with both teams missing multiple scoring opportunities, epitomised when Sulcs had an open run to the basket, only to see his dunk bounce back out.
The quarter closed with Hemel two points ahead, 24-22.
It was the second period of play in which the Dragons took control, despite their hosts opening the lead up to four points in the opening moments. It took three and a half minutes of the quarter for Bradford to level the scores (33-33), following another three-pointer, this time from veteran Jason Swaine.
But, from that point on, the quarter was all about Bradford Dragons and Gooding in particular, who put in an exemplary scoring display, hitting five from seven attempts from beyond the arc. As the first half ended, Hemel could consider themselves fortunate to be only thirteen points down, at 44-57.
A tactical switch by Hemel coach, Dave Allin, saw club captain Walid Mumuni move across to defend Gooding after the break, resulting in the American adding only three points to his tally, during a third quarter in which the home side reduced the deficit to ten points (64-74).
With the home crowd behind them, the hosts could sense that the game was within their grasp and slowly, but surely, they began to eat in Bradford’s lead. As the game entered its final sixty seconds, Hemel’s Jack Burnell levelled the scores at 91 apiece, from the free throw line. The home side then had the opportunity to take the lead, again from the free throw line, but this time came up short. Then, in the final seconds of regulation time, Gooding saw his attempt bounce back of the rim and the game headed into overtime.
For Hemel, it was a case of close but not close enough, as the extra period was totally owned by the visiting Dragons, who closed the game out with the win, 94-104.
In addition to Gooding's haul of 45 points, Rihards Sulcs sank 17 points for the Dragons, whilst Jermayne Laing also contributed 16 points to the winning total.
Bradford’s head coach, Chris Mellor, reflected on the result, saying, “We were really good in the first half, but the lead we had stayed around ten to fifteen points and there was always a danger if they started to connect from beyond the arc that it could get interesting down the stretch and that is exactly what happened. I think we were all so disappointed that it got to overtime, that it helped us even though they had the momentum. We played an excellent extra period and it was a good way to close out the year.”
The Basketball season now takes a short break, over the Christmas and New Year period, with Bradford currently sitting in fifth position in the league table. When the action restarts, Dragons face another away fixture at London Lituanica on Sunday 8th January, 2017 (3:30pm). Basketball then returns to the Dragons Den on Saturday 14th January (6:15pm) when Derby Trailblazers will be the visitors. The two teams met in the reverse fixture on the opening day of the 2016/17 season, when Derby registered the win by a single point. The Dragons will be keen to extract their revenge this time around.