The Dragons hold a commanding position in Group Four heading into next weekend’s final group game against fellow Division One rivals Derby Trailblazers. With the top two from each group advancing to the quarterfinals, Dragons will look to secure a third straight win on their way to the next stage.
Back to today’s action, in a less than vintage Dragons performance, Chris Mellor’s team showed all of their experience down the stretch as they ground out a clutch victory in the Myerscough bubble.
In a game of runs and turnovers, the first quarter was the tightest period of the entire game as both teams felt out their opposition in a high-octane opener. Myerscough got the scoring underway through a Dan Gargan layup. Dragons captain Ricky Fetske responded with a three; the first of many buckets for him in the game.
Andreas Lycoudis provided a nice offensive burst in the first quarter, leading the Dragons scoring with 8 early points (two threes) as they led 17-16 after 12 minutes.
Forcing two successive shot clock violations on Myerscough to start the second quarter, the Dragons looked primed to insert their will on the game as they extended their lead to 21-16.
Forcing Coach Mellor to call a timeout and allow his Dragons team to regroup. Out of the timeout, Fetske scored on a well-executed offensive set as Rihards Šulcs found him posted up in the paint.
Following the timeout, Dragons picked up the intensity and began to look more like their usual self. Attacking the paint and in the penalty, Dragons worked back into the game from the free-throw line. Šulcs, Albert Margai, and Fetske all cashed in for two points at the line, as the Dragons final seven points of the half came at the charity stripe.
Heading into halftime with work to be done, the Dragons trailed Myerscough 33-42 after Gargan banked in a layup to beat the buzzer.
Scoring the first four points of the second half, it looked like the Dragons were about to kick into gear, but then Myerscough came right back with a little surge of their own. Gargan and David Chive combined to extend the Myerscough lead back to 10 (37-47).
After seeing two successive 24-second violations from his team, Myerscough coach Neal Hopkins called a timeout and the Dragons sprang into action with their first meaningful run of the game. Upping the intensity on the defensive end, Dragons simultaneously began to execute efficiently on the offensive end after a shaky opening half.
A 10-2 run pulled Dragons into a one-possession game (47-49). Sharing the ball brilliantly, four assists in the run showcased the uptick in Dragons offense. Getting into the paint with some excellent cutting, Laing, Margai, and Dave Walsh all scored layups.
But like so often in the game, after a Dragons run that seemed to open up the game, Myerscough responded valiantly and went back up by eight (47-55) as Dragons went on a scoreless three-minute stretch. Former Dragon Junior Great Osobor produced a thunderous dunk in the run as the bubble hosts looked buoyed once again.
In a vital stretch to end the quarter, Bradford scored five straight points courtesy of a Tyme Regent-Bascombe (sponsored by Five Wealth, Independent Wealth Management) layup and a much needed Lycoudis three. Heading into the final 12 minutes, the Dragons were down 52-55.
Saving their most complete quarter of the game for the final period, Dragons took each run from Myerscough in their stride and responded with poise. Dragons stalwarts Šulcs and Fetske showed all their experience in the fourth, providing some huge plays on both ends.
After yet another Myerscough run saw the Dragons down five, Šulcs took the game into his hands. First, sinking two free throws before stealing the ball on the following defensive possession and driving coast-to-coast for a massive and one play, which he converted at the line.
Down 60-61 with just over six minutes to play, Dragons needed a determined and well-executed final stretch to come away with a second straight win in the Myerscough bubble. Thankfully, the Dragons know-how proved too much eventually.
A 10-0 run sparked by veteran point guard Albert Margai gave Dragons a 70-63 lead with 1:18 to play in the game. Much to the credit of Myerscough, they never gave in and pushed the Dragons until the very end.
After Margai finger rolled a layup to extend the lead to seven points, Uche Umekwe was adjudged to have committed a questionable unsportsmanlike foul on Osobor. Sending the former Dragon to the line for two free throws and possession.
Osobor knocked down both free throws, and out of a timeout, Dan Gargan swished a three to cut the lead down to a tantalising 70-68 with just over a minute to play. Seemingly out of sight, Dragons were now back in a game, and they needed to shut the door on a Myerscough team who refused to go away without a fight.
Perhaps showing a lack of experience, Titus Warari over aggressively reached in on Umekwe and sent the recent Dragon addition to the line. Showing no nerves, Umekwe sank both free throws to put the Dragons up 72-68 with less than 30 seconds to play.
Down four, Myerscough pushed the ball with pace and found Gargan who knocked down his third three-pointer of the afternoon with a tough sidestep three. Down 72-71 with 10 seconds left on the clock, Myerscough intentionally fouled Lycoudis to extend the game.
Unfazed, Lycoudis stepped up and swished both free throws to extend the Dragons lead to 74-71. With the shot clock turned off, Myerscough managed to get off a tough three in the dying seconds, but much to the delight of the Dragons, the shot didn’t fall, and the game was finally over.
Ricky Fetske led by example with a solid all-around performance, notching his first double-double of the season with 22 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 steals. Andreas Lycoudis scored 13 points with 3 threes (3-7).
A hugely resilient performance from Dragons who never managed to get into top gear. After edging Myerscough 74-71 in Game 2 of the inaugural L Lynch Trophy, all attention now turns to next weekend and the final game of Group D against the Derby Trailblazers.
Photo of Ricky Fetske in action from last season
© Alex Daniel Photography