The teams had previously met in the Dragons Den, in October, when Bradford had taken the spoils with a 91-83 victory in the National Cup, only to be then beaten by Loughborough Student Riders in the quarter finals.
Derby gained possession from the tip-off and scored on their first offence, Simeon Esprit sinking for two points. However, Bradford hit back immediately with a three from Eisley Swaine, but then a couple of two pointers from Matthew Ward-Hibbert put the hosts three points up.
Moments later, the game was tied, at six points apiece, but the Dragons couldn’t stop the Trailblazers from pulling ahead again, and whilst they managed to kep themselves in the game, the gap gradually widened. By the time the buzzer sounded for the end of the opening quarter, the gap was up to nine points, with Derby leading, with 25 points to Bradford’s 16.
With four minutes of the quarter played, Bradford’s home-grown guard, Jermaine Laing sank his two-point jump shot to put the Dragons ahead, and whilst the lead swung back and forth, the Bradford side were ahead by four, going into the final three minutes of the half.
Ward Hibbert bucketed a three to put Derby two up with 90 seconds of the half remaining, but into the final minute Joaquin Calvo (sponsored by Positive Outcome Associates) hit a three of his own to give Bradford a one-point lead. However, Leone Francis, had the final say of the half, downing his jump shot to send the hosts back to the locker rooms with a single point advantage (41-30).
Chris Mellor may have been the happier of the two coaches at half-time, with his side seemingly in the ascendancy and, straight from the restart, Bradford’s Big American restored their lead with a quick two-pointer.
The game swung both ways, throughout the opening minutes of the third and with five minutes played Bradford had again edged ahead (50-52) when Fetske laid-up for two.
But then, Derby started to take a hold on the game, putting themselves ahead - first by two, then by four and then by six – and by the time the buzzer sounded for the end of the penultimate period the gap was up to eight points (66-58).
The home side took advantage of their possession at the start of the final quarter, with Ward-Hibbert hitting a quick three to extend their lead into double figures.
Saipe hit back with a three for the visitors, however for every basket that Bradford could muster up, the Trailblazers had a response and a with six minutes of play on the clock their lead was up to fourteen points (81-67).
The Dragons responded with seven unanswered points of their own, from Fetske, Swaine, Laing and Rihards Šulcs (sponsored by Templewood Photography), to put themselves back in touch. But, in the end, it was too big an ask of a tiring Bradford side and the hosts saw the game out with the win (90-79).
Fetske led the scoring for the Dragons with 23 points, whilst also picking up 10 rebounds to record a double-double. eighteen-year-old Swaine followed up with 16 points whilst Saipe also contributed 14 points to the loser’s tally.
The game high went to Derby’s Ward-Hibbert, who bucketed an impressive 29 points, assisted by Jake Wesselingh who also took 25 points for the winners.
Reflecting on the game, Mellor commented, “It was a close game much of the way, but they got the one vital run really, which sealed the game.
“Their key guys shot a better percentage than ours and defensively, in the second half, we weren’t good enough”
The Dragons now face a trip to third placed Loughborough, this coming Saturday (13th), with an early tip-off at 2pm.
The following weekend, the Basketball action returns to Bradford, when Kent Crusaders will be the visitors into the Dragons’ Den (20th January, 6:15pm).