Bradford Dragons defeated Leicester Warriors 76-66 in a closely fought NBL Division One encounter on Saturday afternoon.
Desperate to bounce back at the first time of asking after last weekend’s disappointing road defeat in Nottingham, Dragons caught fire from three-point range in the fourth quarter to pull away and secure an important victory in the East Midlands.
In their last game of 2020, Coach Mellor’s team travelled to face a struggling Warriors team that had started the season off 0-4.
Warriors’ Pakadashe Chingombe opened the games scoring with a three. What followed was a dominant run to open the game from Dragons.
The hosts were limited to just 3-14 (21%) first quarter shooting, as the Dragons locked in defensively to lead 18-10 after a promising opening quarter.
After an encouraging start, it looked like the visitors were about to create considerable separation between the two sides. However, the hosts fought back with seven straight points as the Dragons went scoreless over their first four offensive possessions of the quarter.
Dragons traded buckets for the majority of the quarter, with the team sharing scoring duties. Ricky Fetske, Rihards Šulcs, and Dave Walsh all scored four or more points in the period, handing Dragons a 31-21 lead with just over two minutes left in the first half.
Then, like the opening moments of the previous quarter, the hosts fired off an 8-2 run to cut the deficit to a one-possession game. Chingombe continued to cause problems as the Dragons went into the break 33-30 to the good in a low-scoring first half.
Coming out of halftime, Dragons started the quicker of the two teams, firing off an 8-2 run of their own to restore a nine-point lead (41-32).
But like the second quarter, the Warriors responded strongly and took a 42-41 lead after 11 straight points stunned Dragons.
Perimeter shooting has plagued the Dragons to start the season, but Coach Mellor’s team finally began to find their stroke in the third quarter.
Walsh assisted fellow guard Andreas Lycoudis on back-to-back threes as Dragons fought to regain the ascendency.
The visitors got their wish moments later, regaining the lead as Lycoudis knocked down his third three of the quarter (53-51). The Dragons ball movement was on full display all game long as Tyme Regent-Bascombe assisted a red-hot Lycoudis for one of the Dragons 24 assisted baskets.
Leicester Warriors’ Chingombe sank two free throws in the final seconds of the penultimate quarter; to tie the game at 53, heading into the all-important fourth quarter.
Captain Ricky Fetske opened the scoring with a mid-range jumper for the first of 10 clutch fourth quarter points.
Amidst a tight opening four-and-a-half minutes, Dragons battled to create a meaningful lead, but the Warriors converted back-to-back and-one plays to regain the lead at 59-58.
As aforementioned, the Dragons’ three-point shooting had been a cause for concern in the opening weeks, but that was all suddenly forgotten as the visitors strung together three successive threes.
Lycoudis knocked down his fourth three of the game to start the run, and shortly after, Dragons point guard Albert Margai scored his only bucket of the game to extend the lead to 64-59.
Fetske then added his second three of the afternoon, as Dragons re-established an eight-point lead (67-59), with just under three-and-a-half minutes to play in the game.
In truth, the three-point avalanche sealed the Warriors’ fate as the visitors never really looked like giving up the lead.
The hosts did manage to cut the lead to four (69-65) after an Ellis Haggith three, but any danger was quickly snuffed out by the Dragons’ two longest-tenured players.
First, Rihards Šulcs scored a layup before Fetske added his third three of the game and finished the games scoring with a dunk.
Dragons found their shooting stroke when they needed it most and finished the game 12-29 (41%) from three-point range; a season-high for the team.
The Final Score, Leicester Warriors 66-76 Bradford Dragons. Dragons improve to 3-1 in Division One with 24 assists and 12 threes, the storylines for Coach Mellor’s team.
Ricky Fetske top-scored for Dragons with 19 points (3-4 from three) and 9 rebounds. Andreas Lycoudis scored 17 points with 4-8 shooting from three-point range. Rihards Šulcs notched a second double-double of the season with a notable 15 points, 10 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 3 assists performance.
Warriors Ellis Haggith led all scorers with 22 points.
Box Score: https://www.fibalivestats.com/u/BBE/1774038/bs.html#ASFSK
Coach Mellor touched on the importance of his team’s three-point shooting down the stretch, he said:
“As expected, it was a tough battle, and we just managed to get the necessary stops and hit some threes in the fourth quarter to close it out.”
Captain Ricky Fetske alluded to his team’s strong defensive performance in the games key moments, he said:
“I am proud of the Dragons’ performance today. We had a defensive plan that we executed well at the start of the game, … and with the game tied at 53 going into the fourth quarter, we regained our defensive focus and pulled away in the last few minutes.”
Fetske was particularly happy with how the team got everyone involved in the scoring, he continued:
“I was most impressed with how well we shared the ball; we had 24 assists on 29 made field goals. We still have a lot to improve on, but this is an uplifting win for us going into the Christmas break.”