The three previous meetings had all been at the Dragons Den, two of which were in the National Trophy and National Cup competitions, so this was the first meeting on the other side of the Pennines. The scene was set for a fiercely competitive fixture, as the Spinners sought to regain some bragging rights against the Dragons.
The home side took the lead within a second of the tip off, through a Mark Rangeley three-pointer, making their intentions clear. Following a miss at the other end, from Bradford’s Jermayne Laing, the lead was quickly extended to five points, with former Dragon, Zion Tordoff, sinking two for the hosts.
Following another Dragons miss, this time by Rafi Saipe, Tordoff was partly responsible for Bradford’s first points, fouling Rihards Sulcs who was on his way to the basket and the Latvian made no mistake from the free throw line.
At the beginning of the second, the Spinners quickly extended their lead to eight points, with Rangeley bagging a couple of long distance threes. Home advantage was extended further to nine points, however the home side just couldn’t pull out of reach. Uncharacteristically, Bradford’s Marcus Gooding only managed to record a couple of points, both from the free-throw line, in the entire first half, but despite this the Dragons managed to pull the deficit back to just four points (55-51) before the teams returned to the locker rooms at half-time.
The score remained close for the opening moments of the penultimate quarter and with three minutes played Laing stole the ball and converted with a two point lay-up to bring the visitors within a point of their hosts. But, that was as close as Bradford came and as the quarter reached its final fifty seconds they found themselves trailing by a huge fifteen-point gap, following yet another three from Rangeley.
As the quarter progressed towards a close, Gooding chose his moment to bag his first points from the field with a long range shot to pull back to twelve points and giving the team hope that they could still be in with a shout. The period closed with the Spinners leading, 86-74.
Any optimism that Gooding’s shot may have given the Dragons seemed to be misplaced, as with seven minutes remaining home advantage was at thirteen points. Gooding took another three points to pull back to ten, but Lancashire’s David Walsh immediately hit back with two to keep Bradford at arm’s length.
Suddenly, the Dragons started to click and slowly they started to eat into the home sides lead. With 80 seconds of play remaining, Jason Swaine hit one of his trademark three pointers to put Bradford within touching distance (94-93).
At the other end, Tordoff missed his three-point attempt, but Jack Hudson grabbed the offensive rebound. Missing his own two-point shot, Hudson then picked up his own rebound and drew the foul from Sulcs. However, he then missed both attempts from the three-throw line, allowing the other Swaine, Eisley, to take two points for Bradford at the other end.
With the Dragons now leading, it was then Rangeley’s turn to miss the opportunity to restore home advantage. With only thirteen seconds on the clock, Jason Swaine drew another foul, converting both shots from the line to extend the lead to three.
The final action came with the hosts missing another three-point attempt. Rangely picked up the defensive rebound, however there was no time for a shot and the Dragons pulled off the victory.
Sulcs finished the game as Bradford’s top scorer with 21 points, whilst Ricky Fetske bagged another double-double with 20 points and 12 rebounds. Saipe contributed 15 points to the winning total and Eisley Swaine also added 13 points.
For Lancashire, Rangeley sank 24 points (including six three pointers) whilst Tordoff, Ulph and Hudson hit 16 points apiece.
Chris Mellor gave his honest reaction to the game, saying, “We didn’t play well and they were the better team for three quarters really. But, I just kept saying try and hang around, keep playing hard and we finally got going in the fourth at both ends and finished with an 8-23 quarter.”
The Dragons now have a weekend off, before returning to action on Saturday 4th February at Worthing Thunder. This is followed by another away game, at Team Solent Kestrels, the following day.
The action is back at the Dragons’ Den on February 18th when current league leaders, Team Northumbria will be the visitors. Tickets for the game are on sale via the Dragons website.
The Dragons under 18s defeated York Eagles, 73-83, at York College on Saturday. Meanwhile, the under 14’s were also in action against Lancashire Spinners, at Phillips High School, in Bury, completing a good weekend for the club with a 65-68 victory.
In other news, the club have announced the Departure of Frenchman Florent Levazeux, due to injury. A spokesman for the club said, “We would like to thank Florent for his contribution to Bradford’s season and we wish him well with his recovery from injury and in finding a new club for next season.”