Prior to the weekends fixtures, Loughborough sat in fifth position in the league table, two places above the Dragons. However, the Riders had a tough weekend agenda, with a fixture against league leaders Team Northumbria on Saturday afternoon, which the North Easterners won 68-75, just twenty-four hours prior to the visit of Bradford.
The hosts took the first two points of the game, which was immediately cancelled out by layup from Ricky Fetske, who was fouled in the process and added the extra point to give Bradford an early lead. However, Loughborough hit straight back again and pushed themselves into a four-point lead at 7-3, with three and a half minutes of the game played.
That was as good as it got for the Riders as Rihards Sulcs netted a two-pointer, quickly followed by a three from Eisley Swaine to give Bradford back the lead, which was quickly extended out to 7-14, following an uninterrupted eleven-point run by the Dragons. The visitors maintained the pressure and, at the end of the opening quarter, they held a nine-point advantage (17-26).
It was a kick in the teeth for the Dragons, who responded with a three pointer from Jason Swaine to take back control and, when the hooter sounded for half time, it was the Dragons that went back to the locker room with a four-point lead (44-48).
The second half started with Marcus Gooding and Fetske bagging a couple of two pointers to extend Bradford’s lead. Try as they might, there was little that Loughborough could do to pull the game back and at the end of the penultimate quarter the Dragons’ lead was up to fourteen points (56-70).
Sulcs continued his rich vein of form, topping the Dragons scorers with 25 points, plus ten rebounds to record yet another double-double. Fetske also recorded the double D, clocking up 17 points and ten rebounds, whilst Gooding contributed a further 16 points towards Bradford’s total. In a great team display it would be unfair to not recognise the contributions of Eisley Swaine (11 points), Jermaine Laing (10), Saipe (10) and Jason Swaine (9).
The Dragons’ remain in seventh position in the league table, whilst Loughborough slip one place to sixth, following the weekends results. In other results, Team Northumbria made a vital step towards capturing the league title by beating their close rivals, and last seasons’ quadruple winners, Manchester Magic on Sunday afternoon, whilst on Saturday Westminster Warriors finally picked up their first win of the season at Essex Leopards.
The Leopards provide the next challenge for Bradford, when they visit the Dragons Den next Saturday (6:15pm). It will be another vital test for the Dragons as they aim to keep the chasing pack at bay and secure a place in the end of season playoffs.
Photographs © ALEX DANIEL PHOTOGRAPHY