The victory solidifies the eighth seed for the Dragons, taking the team within four points of the seventh-seeded Derby Trailblazers, whom Dragons have a game in hand upon.
Dragons slain for first time in 2020
Bradford Dragons fell 87-74 in a tough Saturday afternoon defeat on the road against the Loughborough Riders.
The Dragons three-game winning run came to an end in the East Midlands, in a tight game, the visitors trailed in for all but one possession in the opening minutes of the first quarter.
In the first game of the weekend’s double-header it was the Riders who opened the scoring courtesy of Captain Reis Pinnock.
Dragons responded instantaneously on their first offensive trip down the floor with a three from Dave Walsh. The visitors sole lead of the game was quickly negated by the Riders.
Hitting straight back with a three of their own, Harrison Gamble put the hosts up 5-3, a lead the Riders would never relinquish.
Three of those came with just under a minute-and-a-half to play in the opening quarter. Roberts knocked down a trey that handed the hosts a 25-16 lead.
Dragons managed to trim the deficit down to five points at the end of the opening period (25-20). Through a pair of made free throws from Kenny Ogunneye and Rihards Šulcs.
The Dragons struggled to execute their offensive in the second period as Coach Mellor’s team fought to stay in touch with the hosts.
Loughborough’s Jonas Dieterich knocked down back-to-back field goals that pushed the lead out to 37-27 with 6:29 left in the quarter.
The visitors kept fighting amidst an 9-3 run from Walsh, Andreas Lycoudis and Kenny that got the Dragons within four. But just as Dragons seemed primed to push into a lead, back came the hosts.
Loughborough locked in for the rest of the half and increased the lead back to nine points heading into the break. (47-38)
The third quarter was much of the same as both teams struggled on the offensive end. The lowest-scoring quarter of the game ended 19-18 in favour of the Dragons.
Dragons had cut the lead to eight heading into the final ten minutes of action.
The visitors came out of the blocks firing to start the fourth, as a quick 5-2 burst from a Margai three and a Kenny two pulled the Dragons into a five-point game.
Unfortunately for Dragons that run was then followed by a baron three-minute offensive spell which proved costly.
Scoring eight straight points, the Riders built their biggest lead of the entire game, up 13 (75-62) with 6:12 to play in the game.
The Bradford Dragons huffed and puffed but, in the end, never really managed to get into full rhythm. Losing 87-74 on a difficult afternoon in the Midlands.
Head Coach Chris Mellor gave a frank review of his team’s performance, “We didn’t execute well offensively, we were poor in transition and were second best in most areas. Loughborough played harder and deserved the win.”
Dave Walsh top-scored for the Dragons with 19 points. Albert Margai added 9 points and 9 assists.
Jonas Dieterich led all scorers with 20 points.
Bradford Bounces Back
The following day, the Dragons produced an outstanding performance to knock off the Worthing Thunder 91-83.
The hosts were looking to add insult to injury to the Thunder, who just the previous day lost narrowly at home to Solent in the BBL Trophy Quarter Final.
Both teams came into Sunday afternoon’s game looking for a response. It was the Thunder who came out strongest. Amarjit Basi and Alex Owumi combined to score the opening five points of the game.
The Dragons roared back with a 10-2 run. Walsh knocked down two threes and Captain Ricky Fetske added four points as the hosts worked into an early 10-7 lead.
The pendulum swung back and forth for the next five minutes of the quarter. Down 18-14 with 57 seconds left in the quarter, Dragons sprung out on fast breaks on back-to-back offensive sets. Making the Thunder pay for their lax defence, Margai and Kenny both cashed in at the rim.
Margai also hit a mid-range jumper as the 6-0 run to end the quarter lifted the Dragons into the ascendency after ten minutes of action (20-18).
With multiple lead changes in the second quarter, it was the offensive rebounding of the hosts that was most notable. Eight offensive boards in the second period alone, five courtesy of Kenny who provided huge production off the bench once again.
The visiting Thunder led by as many as three points on numerous occasions in the quarter, but it was the Dragons who led at the interval 43-42.
Whatever Coach Mellor said at halftime certainly set a fire under his team. Producing an outstanding 26-18 third quarter, in which the hosts led by as many as 11 points.
Fetske and Šulcs scored the hosts opening 13 points as the stalwarts’ caused the Thunder all sorts of problems. The 13-6 burst gave Dragons a 56-48 lead with just over three minutes played in the quarter.
When Lycoudis added to the onslaught with his first three of the game, the hosts suddenly had a game-high 11-point lead at the Dragons Den (59-48).
Šulcs personified Dragons grit and determination from start to finish with an offensive board and score to beat the quarter ending buzzer. Finishing the third quarter up 69-60.
The fourth quarter certainly wasn’t as straight forward as many amongst the Dragons faithful would have hoped for. The Thunder to their credit kept fighting and ensured the hosts would need to work hard for their win, twice pulling within a possession.
Much to the delight of the majority inside the Dragons Den, the team was able to hold on and claim a fully warranted victory over one of the NBL Division One’s premier teams.
Cashing in at the free-throw line, the hosts scored nine points in the fourth from the charity stripe.
A dominant rebounding performance from the hosts culminated in the Dragons prevailing 50-33 on the boards. Grabbing an imposing 20 offensive rebounds and scoring 22 second chance points in the process.
The final score, Bradford Dragons 91-83 Worthing Thunder. A fourth win in five games for the Dragons as the team moves onto 8-8 for the season.
Coach Mellor said post-game, “We played a solid four quarters at both ends and our intensity was a level above the day before.
“Worthing have so much firepower offensively, but I thought we did a good job both individually and collectively at the defensive end, and we had numerous players in double figures which helped.”
The Official University of Bradford Player of the Game went to Rihards Šulcs who stuffed the stats sheet with 22 points, 16 rebounds, 7 assists, and 3 steals.
Ricky Fetske notched his tenth double-double of the season with 19 points and 12 rebounds. Kenny Ogunneye also added a double-double with an impressive 13 points and 11 rebounds in just over 19 minutes of play off the bench.
Next up for the Dragons is a road trip to face Liverpool on Saturday, February 8 at 5.00pm.
Photographs © Alex Daniel Photography