As is often the case for Basketball teams, at this stage of the pre-season, both sides were below full strength, awaiting the arrival of some of their foreign players. In Bradford’s case, they were without American point guard, Marcus Gooding, who has been awaiting arrival of his visa before travelling to England.
Leeds are themselves in a period of rebuilding, having appointed new Finnish head coach, Mika Turunen, but also having lost some of last season’s star players, such as Clayfell Harris (Manchester Giants) and Rob Marsden (Sheffield Sharks).
The Dragons started the second period at blistering pace with Rafi Saipe sinking a three pointer, whilst being clattered to the floor. Saipe then sank the extra free throw to open the quarter with a four-point score. Force were always a threat, particularly from the perimeter, and with five minutes of the first half remaining, the gap was reduced to five points (34-39). But, that was to be the home sides last score of the half and as the teams returned to their locker rooms at the interval the Dragons held a commanding fourteen-point lead, at 34-48.
Force opened the scoring in the final period, however, it was the Dragons that took firm control of the game, moving the ball around well and opening the gap back up. With six minutes of the game remaining, Turunen was forced to call a time out, with his side once more 14 points behind (58-72). But, try as they may, there was little that the home side could do to stem the Dragons’ momentum and it was the visitors that closed the game with a resounding nineteen-point victory (68-87).
Whilst one shouldn’t read too much into results of pre-season fixtures, such as this, it certainly proved a useful exercise for the Dragons and will have boosted their confidence, leading into the start of their competitive fixtures next weekend, whilst at the same time giving Leeds Force much to think about before the start of their campaign.
Three days earlier, Bradford had faced a USA Select team, in their only other pre-season fixture. In a game that Bradford led for much of the game, the Americans showed their strength in the final quarter to win the game, 84-89.
The Dragons tip-off their competitive season this coming Saturday (16th September) with a home National Trophy fixture against newly promoted Team Newcastle University. The sides met in last season’s National Cup, a fixture that the Dragons won quite comfortably, 110-70. However, Newcastle have recruited well during this close season and the Dragons can expect a much sterner test this time around. Tip off at the Dragons Den (Bradford College Sports Hall, Trinity Road, BD5 0JE) is at 6:15pm and advance tickets are available via the Bradford Dragons website.
Photographs © Alex Daniel Photography