Having made the two-hundred-and-seventy-mile journey to West Sussex on Saturday, Bradford visited the Worthing Leisure Centre full of confidence having won the opposite fixture 104-86 back in October. The Dragons’ roster was also boosted by the return of Nigerian born forward, Semi Oboigbe, who, despite leaving the club before the league season started, had never had his registration cancelled, allowing him to hook back up with the club a few days after the player registration deadline.
Worthing’s Lionel Gaines beat Ricky Fetske in the tip-off, but it was Bradford who opened the scoring, through a Rafi Saipe three pointer. However, home advantage quickly took over as Jack Sunderland sank a couple of two pointers to give Worthing the lead. The hosts could not pull away, however, and, in the sixth minute of the game, Bradford’s Rihards Sulcs regained the advantage for Bradford, which they pulled out to eight points with ninety seconds of the quarter remaining, before Worthing put in a shift of their own to pull back to within three (20-23).
After the break the game followed a similar pattern. Worthing hit the first two-pointer before the Dragons again extended their lead, this time to thirteen points. The gap was once more narrowed, however Bradford still held a nine-point advantage (58-67) going in to the final quarter.
Worthing put up a valiant fight and at one point had managed to bring themselves back within striking distance, at 76-79. However, that was as good as it got for the home side as Bradford finished the game strongly to make sure of the win, 78-88.
Sulcs headed the Bradford scorers with 24 points, closely followed by Marcus Gooding, who added a further 22 points to his impressive season total. For Worthing, Gaines scored 24 points, and Sunderland contributed 17.
The following day, it was a lunchtime tip-off at the Fleming Park Leisure Centre in Eastleigh. The Kestrels opened an early lead, however some impressive shooting from Bradford’s American power forward, Fetske, soon put the advantage into the visitor’s hands. Leading by seven, 19-26, the Dragon’s big man had tallied up seventeen points by the end of the opening quarter.
TSK came brought it back to a one point ball game in the second quarter, but just couldn’t do enough to get themselves ahead and as the teams returned to the locker rooms, at half time, Bradford were in possession of a four-point lead, 42-46.
After the break the Dragons opened up a commanding eleven-point lead, 47-58. However, the home side then put in a shift of their own and when the buzzer sounded, signalling the end of the penultimate period, the scores were tied at sixty points apiece.
The momentum was now firmly with TSK and despite Bradford holding them close through to the mid-point of the final quarter, home advantage eventually won through, with a final score of 83-74 in the southerners’ favour, delivering a hammer blow to the Dragons’ aspirations of finishing in the top four.
Fetske totalled 27 points for the travelling Dragons, also grabbing 11 rebounds to record a double-double. Gooding bagged another 24 points.
Reflecting on the weekend, Coach Chris Mellor commented, “I thought we played pretty consistent over all four quarters against Worthing and kept finding an answer every time it got close in the last ten minutes. At Solent, we did some good things but ultimately a combination of indiscipline, poor rebounding and a failure to execute were our downfall. But, credit to them, they were the better team down the stretch.”
Bradford face another long away trip to Reading Rockets, next weekend, before the action finally returns to the Dragons’ Den on Saturday 18th February (6:15pm), when current league leaders, Team Northumbria, will be the visitors. Advance tickets for the game can be purchased via the Bradford Dragons website.
Photographic Credit ©NGS/MirrorBoxStudios