Manchester Magic extended their unbeaten run against the Bradford Dragons, with a seven-point victory (84-91) in the Dragons Den, on Saturday evening, leaving the Dragons teetering just outside of the all-important play-off spots.
The last time that the home side enjoyed a victory against their Lancashire rivals was 10 January 2015, since when the two sides have now met on eleven separate occasions, with the red side of the Pennines winning them all.
The visitors opened the scoring with a quick two-point layup, but after Lufadeju missed from Bradford’s first scoring opportunity, Rafi Saipe (sponsored by Made4Fighters) hit a three-pointer to give Bradford the lead. However, neither team managed to take a firm hold of the game during the opening quarter as the two teams cancelled each other out, almost basket for basket. The hosts went into the first break with a single point advantage, 16-15.
Bradford had possession for the start of the second period, however when Laing missed his two-point jump shot, Magic capitalised through a three from Ryan Lewis. The two-point lead quickly expanded to six (16-22), with four points from Hamad Ali, before Laing finally put Bradford back on the score sheet with a couple of free throws, after which Fetske reduced the deficit to just two (20-22).
Manchester stretched it back out, but a two from Spaniard, Joaquin Calvo (sponsored by Positive Outcome Associates), followed by a three from Fetske, saw the game tied at 25-25 with only three minutes of the second period played.
But, once again, Manchester took control of the game and, with only fifty-one seconds of the half remaining their advantage was into double figures (34-44). Marcus Gooding (sponsored by Gooding Funeral Services) brought it back to single figures with a three, which was the final basket of the half (37-44).
Latvian Rihards Šulcs (sponsored by Templewood Photography) hit the first basket of the second half, after which Fetske then reduced the gap to just three points. However, four minutes into the third quarter, Manchester’s advantage was back up to eight points (43-51).
But the home side would not give in, and with just two and a half minutes of the period remaining, a three pointer from Lufadeju saw the game tied once more (55-55).
Fetske then gave Bradford the lead, from the free throw line, before Ali levelled it again and Goldsbrough then put Manchester back ahead again. Lufadeju struck again to tie proceedings once more. Manchester’s Michael Anumba then fouled Eisley Swaine, in the act of shooting for three. The Bradford youngster hit two of three from the free throw line and when Donte Gittens missed the final shot for Manchester, the Dragons ended the penultimate period two up (61-59).
Any optimism that the hosts had, was extinguished within seconds of the restart, when Gittens hit a three to put Manchester back in front. Oliver Hylands briefly put Bradford back ahead, however at the halfway point of the final quarter Magic were once again eight points clear (67-75).
Fetske then scored a spectacular dunk, but the visitors responded immediately and expanded their advantage out to twelve (75-87). With Bradford chasing the game, Manchester were always comfortable and despite more threes from Swaine and Fetske, there was nothing that Bradford could do to prevent another Manchester win against them. Final score 84-91.
Šulcs picked up the Taco Bell Player of the Game award, recording a double-double with 21 points and 10 rebounds. Fetske matched him on points, but just missed out on picking up a double-double of his own with 9 rebounds. Manchester’s Lewis, registered the games high score with 23 points.
Bradford coach, Chris Mellor, bemoaned his team’s performance, saying, “It was a disappointing loss. We got ourselves back in the game after half time with a good third period, but they’ve gone for thirty-two in the fourth, on eleven from fifteen shooting, and defensively giving up ninety-one points is way too many.
With the division being as tight as it is, two victories would put Bradford in a strong position for the play-offs, whereas a couple of reverses could see them slip into the relegation battle.
Tickets for Sunday’s fixture are available via the Bradford Dragons website.
Dragons under 14’s went down 79-56 at City of Leeds Black on Saturday afternoon, whilst the under 16’s completed a miserable weekend for the club with a heavy, 52-109, home defeat against City of Edinburgh.
Photographs © Alex Daniel Photography