Head coach, Chris Mellor was left disappointed on Saturday, when he watched his Bradford Dragons team go down (80-68) at Northumbria University's Sport Central Arena, against last season's champions, Team Northumbria.
Whilst the North Easterners may not have been quite as prolific this season around, they are still sat comfortably in fourth position in the league table and had already beaten the Dragons in their two previous encounters this season.
It was Bradford who put the first points on the scoreboard, when American Power-Forward, Ricky Fetske (sponsored by ALW Guitars), sank his lay-up for two.
Northumbria hit straight back through Malcolm Smith, but Jermayne Laing quickly restored the Dragons’ advantage, with another lay-up.
Nevertheless, home court advantage quickly kicked in, as the hosts started to take a firm grip on proceedings and with three and a half minutes of the opening period still to play, the Dragons were already facing a big twelve-point deficit (18-6).
Fetske sank a two-point jump shot, which was followed up by a three from Disraeli Lufadeju, to put Bradford back in contention (18-11). Despite Smith and Atif Russell dragging the home sides advantage back into double figures, Eisley Swaine and Rihards Šulcs (sponsored by Templewood Photography) ensured that the Dragons were only seven behind (22-15) at the first buzzer.
Three minutes in, the scores were even closer, when Spaniard Joaquin Calvo (sponsored by Positive Outcome Associates) bucketed from the free-throw line to reduce the gap to a single point (26-25).
Moments later, Calvo was at the line again and this time gave the Dragons the lead (26-27), albeit short live as Blayne Freckleton responded with a brace of three-pointers to restore home advantage and by the time the teams headed back to their locker rooms at half time, Northumbria were once again siting pretty, eleven points ahead (45-34).
After the break, Smith sank another two points for the home side, before Fetske then hit a couple of twos, to pull the scores back within single figures (47-38). But the Bradford side were struggling to contain the home offensive and within three minutes of start of the third quarter they were facing a huge sixteen-point deficit (54-38).
However, Bradford have proved this season that they will not fold under pressure and with little over a minute of the penultimate period remaining, Marcus Gooding (sponsored by Gooding Funeral Services) made his jump shot to pull Bradford back to just six points down (58-52). Russell responded with a three and, as the quarter was drawing to a close, Smith made no mistake from the line to put his side eleven points clear (63-52), going into the final ten-minute period.
Try as they may, the visitors never recovered to single figures and with just under two minutes of the game remaining, Jack Wilson put Northumbria sixteen ahead (80-64), from the foul line. It was game over for the Dragons, although Oliver Hylands and then Calvo restored some pride, to finish the game out at 80-68 in the home sides favour.
Despite the loss, there were some good performances within the Dragons’ ranks. Fetske recorded an impressive double-double with 18 points and 16 rebounds, whilst young Swaine contributed 16 points, also adding 5 assists into the mix. Šulcs added ten points to the Bradford score, whilst Calvo and Lufadeju weighed in with 7 and 6 points respectively from the bench.
The game high score went to Northumbria’s Russell (21 points, 14 rebounds), supported by Smith (21 points) and Freckleton (16 points).
Bradford return to their home court on Saturday (10th March), when Worthing Thunder visit the Dragons’ Den. The Couth Coast side won the reverse fixture, earlier in the season and are currently third in the table and all but assured of their place in the post season play-off tournament. However, with the Dragons themselves looking to secure one of the eight play-off berths, the game is sure to be an exciting and high adrenalin encounter. Tip off in the Den is at 6:15pm and advance ticket sales are available via the club website (www.bradforddragons.co.uk/tickets.html).
Dragons under 16s and under 14s both saw their games postponed, due to the poor weather and travelling conditions. The under 16s fixture at City of Edinburgh is now likely to take place on March 18th, whilst Tees Valley Mohawks under 14’s will travel to Buttershaw Business and Enterprise College this coming Sunday.
- Opening paragraph written by Fatiha (Year 5 pupil at Eastwood Community School, Keighley).
- Photographs © Alex Daniel Photography