By Tom Lamming (Student Press Officer)
Bradford Dragons fell to a gut-wrenching 105-99 OT defeat to the Leicester Warriors on Saturday afternoon in NBL Division One.
The Dragons trailed by double digits for long periods of the game, but a late fourth quarter fightback forced overtime, where the Warriors outlasted the hosts.
Andreas Lycoudis knocked down a clutch buzzer-beating three to send the game to overtime, but the Dragons comeback attempt fell in vain as Coach Mellor’s team succumbed to a fourth-straight league defeat.
Warriors big man Morakinyo Williams opened the games scoring with a mid-range jumper.
In a cagey opening quarter, both teams traded the lead in the first five minutes, before Dragons established a lead.
Great Osobor provided a big spark off the bench, and Dragons sharpshooter Dave Walsh returned to the Dragons rotation by knocking down his first shot back after a spell on the sidelines.
Then a below-par second quarter forced Dragons into crisis mode as they looked to stay in the game.
A 15-5 run over the opening three-and-half minutes of the period saw the visitors take a 34-27 lead, as Williams and Leon Henry combined to score ten of the Warriors 15 points.
Struggling to generate offense, Osobor scored four points to close the quarter, ensuring the Dragons stayed in touch with the visitors.
Heading into halftime, the hosts trailed 48-38 after being outscored 29-16 in the second quarter.
Out of the break, Dragons were hoping to cut into the sizeable deficit, but despite a much-tighter quarter, the visitors maintained their double-digit lead.
The Warriors outscored Dragons 19-18 in the penultimate period, with Martyn Gayle scoring seven points in the quarter.
Gayle continued his offensive exploits in the opening minutes of the final period, knocking down a three to extend the Warriors lead to 14 (70-56).
When Lamin Willian knocked down a three on the next offensive possession, the Dragons, down 73-56, looked to be fighting an uphill battle.
For the opening five minutes of the final period, Dragons failed to cut into the lead, but then came a tenacious stretch of Dragons basketball that flipped the game on its head.
Trailing 84-69 with 4:35 left on the clock, the Dragons went on a 19-4 run to close the game.
The trio of Osobor, Walsh, and Andreas Lycoudis combined to score 17 of the Dragons final 19 points.
Seemingly heading to an abject home defeat, Coach Mellor’s team mustered up all the courage in their arsenal to fight back in style.
The comeback started on the defensive end, with the Dragons collectively fighting to box out a significantly bigger Warriors team who had dominated the glass all game long.
Buoyed by an uptick in defence, the Dragons offense began to click for the first time all game as the hosts scored on eight of their final ten offensive possessions.
On the next offensive possession, Great Osobor drove into the paint and converted an and-one layup to keep the hosts’ momentum flowing.
Despite the fourth quarter comeback, a mid-range jumper from Williams put the Warriors up 88-85 with just 52 seconds left on the game clock.
With the Warriors failing to build on their lead, Andreas Lycoudis rose to the fore for Dragons.
After Walsh missed a game-tying three, Uche Umekwe grabbed the offensive rebound and shovelled the ball out to Lycoudis, who drilled a heavily contested fadeaway three at the buzzer.
Out of nowhere, the Dragons had forced overtime as Lycoudis tied the game at 89.
Building on the fourth quarter momentum, the hosts suddenly had their first lead since the first quarter as the ever-impressive Osobor knocked down a three (93-92).
But then came the agony; ten unanswered points for the Warriors sealed the Dragons fate as the visitors built a 102-94 lead with 49 seconds left in the game.
Dragons did manage to cut the deficit to four (103-99), but unable to execute on the offensive end, the Warriors claimed a nervy victory in the end.
The Final Score, Bradford Dragons 99-105 Leicester Warriors. A tough defeat for Dragons to stomach after a hard-fought fourth quarter comeback fell in vain.
The Dragons fall to 5-7 on the season after a sixth defeat in seven games.
Great Osobor led all scorers with 28 points, 14 rebounds, and 3 steals, with Rihards Šulcs adding 16 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 steals.
Box Score: https://www.fibalivestats.com/u/BBE/1774117/bs.html#ASFSK
Coach Mellor shared his frustration with the overtime defeat, he said:
“After clawing our way back to force overtime, it was disappointing not to come away with the win.”
Next up for the Dragons is the second game of a pivotal three-game homestand, as the Derby Trailblazers travel to Nottingham on Saturday, March 20, with tip-off at 6.30pm.
Photographs © Alex Daniel Photography