By Tom Lamming (Student Press Officer)
Bradford Dragons fell to a narrow 73-68 road defeat against the 12-5 Trailblazers in NBL Division One action on Saturday afternoon.
Another monumental second-half comeback looked to be on the cards for Dragons, but a scoreless final four minutes allowed the Trailblazers to grind out the victory.
With the Dragons 32-point comeback on March 20th against Derby still fresh in the memory, Coach Mellor’s team came into Saturday’s game looking to make it two straight wins against the hosts.
With several key players still missing through injuries, the Dragons makeshift rotation equipped themselves well, opening the game on a 12-6 run.
All five Dragons starters scored in the run as Elijah Walsh knocked down a three and dished out two assists.
The visitors looked locked in early, but a string of sloppy turnovers allowed the fourth-seeded Trailblazers to work their way into the game.
Blake Bowman and Joshua Guddemi combined to score 11 of the hosts’ 20 first quarter points as they led 20-17 after the opening ten minutes of play.
After a tight opening period, the Dragons offense began to stall as Derby scored eight straight points to open the second quarter.
Guddemi continued to frustrate Dragons as he scored five quick points to open the period.
Dragons youngster Great Osobor scored the visitors’ first point of the quarter at the free-throw line, almost four minutes into the period.
The hosts’ onslaught didn’t stop there though, with the Dragons struggling to generate anything on the offensive end, Derby closed the quarter on a 13-5 run.
Outscoring the visitors 21-8 in the period, Derby led Dragons 41-25 after a less than impressive second quarter.
Shooting just 8-32 in the first half with 12 turnovers, the visitors had it all to do in the second half.
In need of a response, whatever Coach Mellor had said at the half, had the desired effect as Dragons fought back in the penultimate quarter.
Once again, it was the play of the Dragons two, young starlets Walsh and Osobor, which sparked the fightback.
First, it was the turn of Great Osobor, who scored the visitors first eight points of the quarter to cut the lead down to 43-33.
Then came a spell of brilliance from his partner in crime, Elijah Walsh, who scored or assisted, on the next, four Dragons offensive possessions to reduce the deficit to 48-42.
Coinciding with Osobor going to the bench, Derby responded with eight straight points to re-establish a 13-point lead (56-43).
But to their credit, Dragons closed the quarter resolutely, scoring the final eight points with Walsh pouring in another three buckets.
Heading into the final quarter of play, Dragons trailed 56-51, with the game firmly in the balance.
Continuing where he left off at the end of the previous quarter, Walsh continued to dictate the Dragons offense, scoring or assisting, on three of the first four buckets in an 11-2 run to open the final quarter.
Walsh closed the run with a three, which handed the visitors a 61-58 lead, their first since the opening quarter.
With 7:37 left on the game clock, the next three-and-a-half minutes of action saw both teams jockeying for the lead, with three lead changes occurring.
An important Tyme Regent-Bascombe three-pointer handed the young Dragons team a 68-65 lead with just over four minutes to play.
But just as the Dragons looked like taking control of the game, the visitors went scoreless down the stretch as the Trailblazers scored eight unanswered points to claim maximum points.
Dragons fought hard to climb back into the game, but they didn’t have quite enough in the clutch to close out what would have been an impressive victory.
The Final Score, Derby Trailblazers 73-68 Bradford Dragons. The Trailblazers edge a low-scoring affair as Dragons fall to 6-11 on the season after a fourth-straight defeat.
Box Score: https://www.fibalivestats.com/u/BBE/1774159/bs.html
Dragons return to winning ways
A tightly fought encounter for long periods, Dragons clinched the game at the free-throw line in the clutch.
Scoring 15 of 17 fourth quarter points at the line, Dragons highly efficient 25-29 performance at the free-throw line proved to be the games deciding factor.
Facing off against the 2-14 Nottingham Hoods, Dragons were looking to avenge Nottingham’s 85-62 victory in the last meeting between the teams on December 12th, 2020.
Dragons started the game looking to drive to the rim and were rewarded with eight free-throw attempts, in the opening, four minutes of action.
Sparked by their trips to the line, the hosts led 12-6, with four Dragons starters on the scoreboard early.
Nine first quarter points for Victor Olarerin, who led the Hoods as a tight opening period ended with Dragons 23-18 in the ascendency.
The second quarter followed a similar trajectory, with neither team able to create double-digit separation.
Dragons led by as many as seven as Billy Cousins scored seven quick points to open the quarter.
Uche Umekwe and Great Osobor combined to score ten in the period as Dragons led 40-39 at the interval.
With only two points in the final four minutes of the half, Dragons allowed the Hoods to work back into the game courtesy of a 6-2 run.
Heading into halftime, Great Osobor led Dragons with 8 points and 14 rebounds.
As so often has been the case in recent weeks, Dragons young starlets Elijah Walsh and Osobor provided a massive spark, and it was most evident in the opening moments of the penultimate quarter.
The young duo combined to score the Dragons first nine points of the period as the hosts re-established a five-point lead (48-43).
The following seven minutes of action saw four lead changes, with neither team able to maintain a meaningful lead.
The key stint of the quarter came in the final two minutes of play as the Dragons put together an 8-2 run to close the third quarter.
A Walsh three sandwiched in-between two layups from Umewke meant the hosts led 63-56 going into the fourth quarter.
With the game on the line, the tightest quarter of the game unfolded.
Re-establishing some of the aggression that allowed them to get to the free-throw line ten times in the opening quarter, the Dragons first 13 points of the quarter came at the charity stripe.
Knocking down 13 of 14 free throw attempts, the hosts’ efficiency allowed Coach Mellor’s team to weather the Hoods resurgence as the visitors took a 68-67 lead midway through the fourth.
Fortunately for Dragons, the Hoods resurgence was short-lived as they went on a four-and-a-half-minute scoreless run that the hosts duly capitalised on.
Still getting to the line at a considerable clip, nine straight points handed the Dragons their largest lead of the game (76-68) with just over three minutes left on the clock.
Hoods star man Olarerin wasn’t willing to concede defeat just yet, scoring an and-one layup that cut the lead to 76-71.
Then on the Hoods next offensive possession, Kieran Wright knocked down a clutch three to make it a one-possession game, but Tyme Regent-Bascombe responded with a layup to hand the Dragons a 78-74 lead.
After taking a timeout with 20 seconds left on the game clock, the Hoods were unable to score again, and Great Osobor iced the game at the free-throw line with two clutch free-throws.
The Final Score, Bradford Dragons 80-74 Nottingham Hoods. Dragons bounce back to winning ways in a gritty game won at the free-throw line.
Dragons climb to ninth in NBL Division One, improving to 7-11 in the process.
The Official Bradford Dragons Calderdale College Player of the Game went to Uche Umekwe, who scored 16 points and added 5 rebounds.
Elijah Walsh led Dragons in scoring with 18 points, and Great Osobor poured in 14 points, 20 rebounds, and 3 blocks.
Box Score: https://www.fibalivestats.com/u/BBE/1774054/bs.html#ASFSK
Coach Mellor reflected on the weekend’s doubleheader, he said:
“It was disappointing not to take both games this weekend. We got ourselves in a good position against Derby but went scoreless at the end as they closed it out on an 8-0 run. And against Nottingham, it was pretty tight throughout, and we just managed to put together the telling run in the fourth.”
Next up for Dragons is the final game of the regular season, and with playoff seeding still up for grabs, the Dragons host the fifth-seeded, Team Newcastle University on Sunday, April 18, with tip-off at 2pm.
Photographs © Alex Daniel Photography