The Rockets are one of the longest established teams in the division, and have won an impressive amount of silverware over the years - including three league and four play-off championships, as well as being three times National Cup and five times National Trophy winners. Going into the game they had a win record of three from four, for this season, and were sitting nicely within the early season leading pack.
Meanwhile, Bradford had a win ratio of two from three, playing one game less, having enjoyed the previous weekend off, following London Lituanica’s decision to withdraw from the league.
The highlight of the opening quarter, if not the entire game, came right at the death, with Reading holding a ten-point lead (25-15). The Rockets saw their three-point attempt bounce off the rim with a couple of seconds remaining. Marcus Gooding (sponsored by Gooding Funeral Services) took the rebound, laying the ball off to Rihards Sulcs (sponsored by Templewood Photography) who, from inside his own half of the court, launched a spectacular buzzer-beating shot to reduce the deficit to seven points, 25-18, at the first scheduled break in play.
The Dragons started the second period with a renewed vigour, and Gooding hit a three-pointer early on to further reduce the deficit. Ricky Fetske later chipped in with a slam dunk and Rafi Saipe contributed from beyond the three-point line. However, despite their efforts, the Dragons just couldn’t close the gap completely. As the half time buzzer sounded, the visitors were still four points adrift, at 42-38, but with renewed belief that they could turn the game around.
That belief was short lived however, as Readings offence, led by Donaldson, started to turn the screw, whilst at the other end a succession of missed shots and turnovers allowed the hosts to extend their advantage. By the time the buzzer sounded, to signal the end of the third period, home advantage was up to fourteen points (65-51).
Fetske reduced the deficit to twelve at the start of the final quarter, but quickly afterwards Reading had opened up a twenty-one-point advantage (76-55), thanks to some impressive shooting from Ali Sbai. Bradford could make little impact upon their hosts’ lead, and although they were able to pull back to seventeen behind, with two minutes remaining, Reading had too much in their locker and ended the game as convincing winners, 95-74
Saipe was, once again, the top scorer for Bradford with 21 points, whilst Gooding, Fetske and Sulcs all contributed 13 points each. However, It was Reading’s Donaldson that finished as the game’s high scorer with 22 points towards the winning total.
Following his sides defeat, Dragons’ head coach, Chris Mellor gave an honest reflection on his team’s performance. “We went in at half time with some kind of momentum, after a good second quarter. But we were very poor at both ends of the court in the second half and they (Reading) took full advantage and fully deserved the win.”
The basketball action returns to the Dragons’ Den next Saturday (18th) when Team Newcastle University Knights are the visitors. The teams met in the National Trophy, back in September, with the Knights achieving a hard-fought victory.
In other fixtures, Dragons’ under 16s suffered their first defeat of the season, at York Young Eagles, going down 72-69, having been ahead at the end of the third. Great Osobar top scored with 22 points, Olufemi Bright contributed 18 points and Theo Antwi added a further 17 points to the Dragons’ total.
Photographs © Alex Daniel Photography