Saturday evening heralded the start of the competitive basketball season for the Bradford Dragons and after some positive performances, during pre-season preparations, expectations were high, leading into the National Trophy Pool 2 fixture, against newly promoted Team Newcastle University Knights. However, it wasn’t to be Bradford’s night, as the Division One newcomers went home with the win, 70-73.
The two teams had met previously, in last season’s National Cup, with the Dragons producing a convincing victory. However, during their division two campaign, Newcastle recorded an impressive record of nineteen wins and only three losses, to secure promotion to the top flight, along with Kent Crusaders.
The second quarter followed a similar pattern, with both teams surrendering opportunities to find the baskets. But, this time, it was the home side that held a three-point lead, 31-28, as the teams left the court at half time.
Newcastle regained the lead early into the third quarter but, still, neither team were able to take the game by the scruff of it neck and the scores remained close throughout. With only ten seconds remaining in the third, Bradford had brought the scores to within a single point (45-46), but the Knights scored the final layup if the penultimate period to lead by three, going into the final ten minutes.
With three and a half minutes of the fourth quarter played, Rihards Sulcs stole up the court and put Bradford back in front (53-52), with a lay-up. However, any celebration was short lived as Newcastle responded immediately with a three-pointer. The lead continued to switch hands through the remaining minutes. However, with less than 24 seconds remaining on the clock, the Knights were a point to the good (67-68) and in possession of the ball, forcing Bradford to make the foul in an attempt to regain possession. But, with the visitors making the free-throws there was nothing that the Dragons could do to prevent the loss (70-73).
For the second weekend in succession (following his 28 points against Leeds Force last week), Saipe topped the Bradford scorers with 21 points. Fetske contributed 16 points to the Dragons total whilst Sulcs also sank 13 points.
In a short statement, after the game, Bradford’s head coach, Chris Mellor said, “It was a close game throughout. Neither team really got a grip on the game and they managed to make some big plays down the end.”
Bradford will take some consolation in the fact that they can clearly perform better and will also be boosted by the arrival of their American point-guard, Marcus Gooding, when they next take to the court. With no game next weekend, Mellor has a couple of weeks to work with his players before the Dragons travel to Newcastle to face last season’s league and cup double winners, Team Northumbria, in their second and final Trophy pool fixture, on Sunday 01st October.
The action then returns to the Dragons’ Den on Saturday 7th October, when the visitors will be Loughborough Student Riders, for the opening fixture of the 2017/18 National League Division One campaign. Tip off in the Den is at 6:15pm and advance tickets are available via the Bradford Dragons website.
Photographs © Alex Daniel Photography