Dragons showed encouraging spells of play throughout but were ultimately second-best on the day. Team Solent Kestrels improve to 6-0 in the NBL Division One but were made to work by a resilient Dragons team that fought until the final buzzer.
Looking to end Solent’s 16 game unbeaten run dating back to February 23rd, 2019, the Dragons travelled to the South Coast in search of their first away victory of the season.
Not adverse to breaking Solent unbeaten runs having put to an end the Kestrels 10-game unbeaten start to the 2018-19 season, the Dragons were hoping that history would repeat itself on Matchday Six.
The hosts opened the scoring with a floater from American Ian Smith. The visitors traded buckets with the league leaders in the opening minutes as the trio of Jermayne Laing, Ricky Fetske and Allie Fullah all got on the scoreboard.
Scoring 12 of his teams 29 points in the period, Solent’s leading marksman stamped his authority on the game as he knocked down back to back to threes.
The hosts had pushed their lead out to 15 by the time the opening period had come to a close.
Unlike some of the Kestrels early-season opponents, the Dragons dug in and made sure a capitulation was never on the cards. Still looking to control the tempo and execute their game plan as the depth of the hosts roster became increasingly apparent.
Two minutes into the quarter, the visitors finally had their first three of the evening courtesy of Dave Walsh as the Dragons looked to make inroads into the deficit.
Further threes from Walsh and Fetske kept Bradford within 20 points as the Solent offensive onslaught continued. As the Kestrels trio of Smith, Travis Charles, and Johnathan Lashley combined for 19 points in the period.
Lashley sent up a prayer of a three with the game clock winding down, indicative of the way the game was going, the shot banked in off the glass and ensured the hosts headed into half time 57-34 to the good.
Despite three fouls in the opening quarter, Fullah played some highly productive minutes in the second period under the shadow of foul trouble. Corralling rebounds on both ends, blocking shots and using all of his 6’8’’ frame to alter shots in and around the paint.
With a considerable rebounding discrepancy of 58-36 on the game in favour of the hosts, Fullah’s 12 rebounds on the evening certainly represents a bright spot for the Dragons.
Heading into the second half, the Bradford Dragons went in search of another double-digit comeback, but the hosts were just on another level.
All five starters scored in double figures for Solent as the offensive barrage showed no signs of slowing down.
Five threes in the third period propelled the Kestrels into a 35-point lead with 2:35 to play in the quarter. Bradford responded well with a team-high nine-point run to end the quarter.
Billy Cousins stepped onto the hardwood for his first playing time of the season and instantly made an impact. Cutting from the three-point line and laying in a tough and one finish.
Handed their first third-quarter defeat of the season, the Dragons responded in the only way they know-how, by winning the fourth quarter.
A rampant Kestrels team that has blown opponents away in the final quarter of games was incapable of doing the same this time out.
In outscoring the hosts 27-24 in the fourth quarter, the Dragons ensured Solent lost only their second quarter of the entire season.
Five threes from the visitors in the period was a big positive, as the team looks for more consistency from deep as the season progresses.
Battling hard until the end, the Dragons showed they can hang with the best in the league in spells. Falling in Southampton, 107-79 to the table-topping Team Solent Kestrels. 79 also represents the most points a team has put up against Solent all season.
Coach Mellor commented, “The game got away from us early and against a team like Solent it’s very difficult to play catch up.”
Captain Ricky Fetske top-scored for the Dragons with 16 points and 10 rebounds in a second successive double-double for the American. Dave Walsh recorded 15 points, going 5-9 from three. Allie Fullah also notched a notable 12 rebounds and 3 blocks performance.
Elliot Sentance led all scorers with 24 points.
Next up for the Dragons is a League and Cup double-header.
First, the Dragons host Barking Abbey Crusaders on Saturday, November 9 at 6.15pm in NBL Division 1. Then, the Dragons take on Team Newcastle in the Third Round of the National Cup on Sunday, November 10 at 4.15pm.
In Saturday’s Junior Dragons action, the U16s suffered a tough 97-63 defeat at the hands of the Derbyshire Arrows. Elsewhere, the U14s also fell to the Derbyshire Arrows 98-58. In Sunday’s action, the Dragons U14s lost 88-56 to the Teesside Lions.
Match Report by Tom Lamming (Student Press Officer).