Bradford Dragons secured a comfortable 81-67 win against Team Newcastle University on their long-awaited return to NBL Division One action.
Coach Mellor’s team travelled to the North East to face newly promoted Team Newcastle, who started their season with a commendable 2-1 record. Saturday afternoon’s clash marked the second game between the team’s already this season, with Dragons claiming an 84-59 victory in their opening game of L Lynch Trophy group play on October 10th.
Without games on consecutive weekends since the middle of October, Dragons looked like a team still fighting to get back into rhythm, in the first quarter of their league opener.
Dragons were taking care of the ball and generating good looks; however, shots simply weren’t falling in the opening period.
Dave Walsh led the Dragons with five first quarter points, but the play of the first quarter came right at the end of the quarter when Ricky Fetske followed an Albert Margai miss with a ferocious put-back dunk to beat the buzzer.
Tied at 17 after the first period, Dragons began to kick into gear in the second quarter and never looked back.
Showing all their experience, Margai and Fetske took the game by the scruff of the neck and catapulted the Dragons into the ascendency.
Fetske poured in 12 points with Margai adding 8 points of his own in the second period. Dragons closed the half in style, going on an 8-2 run to finish the quarter.
Tyme Regent-Bascombe (sponsored by Five Wealth, Independent Wealth Management) started the run with a layup off a Margai feed. Regent-Bascombe then turned provider, finding the red-hot New Jersey native Ricky Fetske, who fired home a second three of the quarter to extend the visitors lead to 42-35.
Newcastle’s very own American Ronald Blain responded with a layup before Albert Margai beat the buzzer with a deep three to hand Dragons a then game-high eight-point lead (45-37) heading into halftime.
After the second quarter scoring explosion of 28 points, Dragons cooled off somewhat in the penultimate period, but the story was all about the visitor’s sheer will to win.
With shots not falling, Dragons dug in deep and dominated Team Newcastle University on the glass, creating multiple second-chance opportunities.
The hosts did manage to cut the eight-point lead to just two points halfway through the period, but the experience of a savvy Dragons team shone through.
Holding the hosts scoreless for almost three minutes, the Dragons took advantage as Andreas Lycoudis fired home a three and cashed in with three additional points at the charity stripe. Jermayne Laing then added the final two points of the quarter at the free-throw line.
Heading into the final period, Dragons were in full control of proceedings, leading 62-52.
A run-away from guaranteeing maximum points back would be heading back to West Yorkshire, Dragons produced a truly dominant five-minute stretch of basketball at the start of the final quarter.
Another lockdown defensive effort ensued as the Dragons held Team Newcastle scoreless for almost four-and-a-half minutes. The Dragons took control of the game, and yet again, offensive rebounding was the catalyst.
Team Newcastle simply couldn’t keep Laing and Regent-Bascombe off the boards, as time and time again, the Dragons duo claimed offensive rebounds in amongst a sea of bodies. In the 13-3 run that ultimately sealed the victory, the Dragons snatched seven offensive rebounds.
Not content with just grabbing rebounds, Laing and Regent-Bascombe combined for nine of the Dragons 13 points in the run. As Fetske knocked home another jumper, the Dragons lead had suddenly ballooned to a game-high 20 points (75-55).
Whilst Team Newcastle did half the Dragons lead (77-67) with just under two minutes to play, the visitors were still in total control, and Uche Umekwe chipped in with four straight points to put the finishing touches to a gritty opening day victory for Dragons.
The final score, Team Newcastle University 67-81 Bradford Dragons. Dragons move to 1-0 in NBL Division One after a terrific team performance. Outrebounding the hosts 64-41 with a staggering 28 offensive rebounds on the afternoon, Coach Mellor’s team were great value for their win.
Ricky Fetske notched a third-straight double-double of the season, scoring 18 points and adding 14 rebounds. Albert Margai scored 15 points with 4 assists, and fellow guard Jermayne Laing also stood out, adding 14 points to an impressive 4 rebounds (3 offensive), and 4 assists.
Special shoutout to Tyme Regent-Bascombe who notched 16 rebounds (9 offensive), 5 points, and 4 assists in 20 minutes off the bench.
Ronald Blain led all scorers with 20 points for Team Newcastle University.
Next up for the Dragons is a trip to face the 0-3 Oakland Wolves in NBL Division One action on Saturday, December 5 at 3.45pm.
Photographs © Alex Daniel Photography.