The Dragons were the last team to beat Reading (102-96) when the two sides met in the Dragons Den earlier in the season. Since then, the Rockets had moved on to win their next twelve games on the bounce and Bradford were hoping to make it unlucky thirteen.
Former BBL player, Semi Oboigbe lined up in the Dragons starting five, having rejoined the club just before the prior weekends fixtures. However, following a series of missed shots and turnovers, from both sides, it was Readings Danny Carter that opened the scoring with a three-pointer. Then, whilst Rafi Saipe missed an opportunity to level the score for Bradford, Carter added a further two points to give the hosts an early five-point advantage.
It didn’t get any better for the Dragons, who found themselves 11 points down (13-2) with less than four minutes played.
Bradford eventually got themselves going, coinciding with the arrival on court of their long-serving Latvian, Rihards Sulcs. With the balance of play switched in the visitors’ favour, the gap was slowly closed, and with two minutes of the opening quarter remaining the gap had been brought back to just two points (15-13).
Reading started the second period at pace and quickly extended their advantage to twelve points (27-15) and as the quarter progressed the gap was slowly opened further. With three minutes remaining of the half, Reading had opened up a twenty-two-point lead (48-26), leaving Bradford with a mountain to climb. But as the buzzer signalled for half time, the visitors had barely managed to reach the first ridge, with Reading holding an impressive seventeen-point first half advantage, with the scores at 50-33.
Following the break, Bradford did manage to make some progress on their ascent and when a Sulcs jump shot brought the scores back within nine points (65-56) the Dragons caught a glimpse of the summit. Cue another big effort from the home side, who ended the penultimate period at 76-62.
The fight had gone from Bradford’s spirit and the final quarter was a stroll in the park for the hosts. The Dragons have earned a reputation this season as the league’s highest scorers, but with just under three minutes of the game remaining it was Reading that hit the hundred mark, with Craig Ponder hitting both his shots from the free throw line to put his side 25 points up (101-76).
At its peak the home advantage was as high as 26 points, and despite the Dragons best efforts there was no doubt that the Rockets deserved their win (108-85).
Marcus Gooding was again Bradford’s top scorer, bagging 21 points, followed by veteran Jason Swaine with 17 points and Sulcs adding 13 to Bradford’s total. However, it was Carter that finished as the games top scorer, with 24 points for the hosts, whilst both Ponder and Chris Hooper both finished on 23 points.
Following the defeat, Bradford coach, Chris Mellor reflected, “We turned the ball over way too much, which led to numerous transition points and they shot the ball from the perimeter very well. We cut it back to nine midway through the third, but once again turnovers cost us. They were the better team on the day in pretty much every department.”
The action returns to the Dragons Den this Saturday (6:15pm), when Bradford face another tough fixture against current league leaders, Team Northumbria. The teams have met three times already this season with Saturday’s visitors coming out on top in all three games. Bradford will be keen to break the pattern this time around, particularly as they are entering the business end of the season. Advance tickets for the fixture are available via the Dragons’ website.
Dragons’ under 18s beat Doncaster Danum Eagles, 73-70, in the opening fixture of a double bill at Buttershaw Business and Enterprise College, on Saturday. The under 14’s then completed a double for the junior sides, convincingly beating Cheshire Wire, 65-25.