by Tom Lamming (Student Press Officer)
Bradford Dragons clinched an important 97-83 road win over the Westminster Warriors on Saturday, before falling disappointingly to fellow playoff rivals Reading Rockets 86-63 at the Dragons Den on Sunday.
The Leicester Warriors also went 1-1 over the weekend. Meaning the Dragons maintain their spot as the 8th seed, holding a four-point buffer over the Warriors with just three games to play. The Dragons do hold the head-to-head over the Warriors, so should the teams tie on points, Dragons would ultimately advance to the playoffs.
Bradford Dragons swiftly returned to winning ways with a 97-83 victory over the Westminster Warriors.
Desperate to bounce back from last weekend’s tough defeat to Hemel, the Dragons responded by claiming a vital win in the race for playoff seeding.
Dragons ensured the lowly Warriors search for a victory goes on. Now 16 games without a win, Westminster battled hard, but Coach Mellor’s team deservedly prevailed in the end.
Despite the comfortable winning margin, the visitors didn’t have it all their own way. After opening up a 9-5 lead in the opening three minutes of play, the Dragons suddenly found themselves down 23-13.
Over the next five minutes of play, the hosts proceeded to go on an 18-4 run to blow the game wide open. Dragons had no answer for the Warriors assault on the painted area as they continued to cash in with layups.
The first four minutes of the second quarter entailed the Dragons working their way within a score of the Warriors without making that all-important jump. That, however, was soon to change.
A 13-0 Dragons run spun the game on its head. Jermayne Laing banked home a layup to give the visitors a 38-37 lead with 5:13 to play in the first half. Remarkably it marked the last lead change in the entire game.
Kenny Ogunneye, Ricky Fetske, and Andreas Lycoudis also scored in the run that gave the Dragons a 48-38 lead.
Although the visitors led by as many as 11, a seven-point surge from the Warriors in the final minute of the half, reduced the Dragons lead to just four points at the interval (51-47).
The third quarter, however, was a much tighter affair. After both teams had surged into double figure leads in the opening two quarters, in the penultimate quarter, neither team was able to put a sustained run together.
Dragons led by as many as eight points, but the Warriors dug into to ensure they had a fighting chance heading into the fourth quarter, down 72-67.
The hosts broke out to a 5-0 run to start the fourth, tieing the game up at 72-72. Courtesy of a Kai Walker three and a pull-up jumper from veteran Jon Johnson.
Up 78-76 with just under seven minutes to play, the Dragons took the game by the scruff of the neck. Nine straight points over a two-and-a-half-minute spell finally broke the Westminster resistance.
Back-to-back threes from Lycoudis put Dragons 87-76 to the good. Although Afrasyab Khalil halted the run with a free throw, threes from Fetske and Dave Walsh ensured a 12 th Division One win of the season was never in doubt.
The final score, Westminster Warriors 83-97 Bradford Dragons. A 25-16 fourth quarter advantage propelled the Dragons on their way to clinching a victory in part one of the weekend’s doubleheader.
Coach Mellor said post-game: “It was a good win in the end after not playing great for three quarters, but a decent last ten minutes was the difference.”
Six Dragons scored in double-figures and a collective effort on the boards ensured a dominant 50-33 rebound advantage.
Ricky Fetske led all scorers with 22 points and 17 rebounds. Rihards Šulcs added 18 points and 6 rebounds.
Difficult afternoon’s work at the Dragons Den
The following day, the Dragons were slain in convincing fashion 86-63 by the Reading Rockets.
Heading into the game, Dragons had hopes of leapfrogging their opponents into seventh place, but in truth Coach Mellor’s team never really got out of first gear.
In a game where the Dragons never led, the visitors dictated the game from wire to wire.
Starting as they meant to go on, the Rockets surged into an 11-0 run in the first three minutes of action.
Andreas Lycoudis halted the run with a layup after nearly four minutes of first quarter play, but the offensive onslaught continued as Leome Francis and Liam Davis extended the visitors lead to 15-2.
Dragons struggled to convert around the rim in the first quarter as the Rockets raced into a 23-9 advantage after the opening ten minutes of action.
Looking for signs of Bradford resilience, the home faithful saw snippets throughout the second quarter. Firstly, the Dragons made an 8-2 run at the start of the period to pull within eight points.
But then like so often in the game, when the hosts looked to set to break even, the Rockets went on a run of their own.
Matias Boho, Dixon and Francis all scored in a run that gave the visitors a 36-20 lead with just under three minutes to play in the half.
Then came some of that aforementioned Dragons resilience. A 6-0 run to end the half cut the visitors lead to 36-26 at the interval.
Hoping for one of those magical third quarter comeback’s, the Dragons, however, made the worst possible start to the second half.
The Rockets scored on four of their first five possessions in the third quarter to go up by 19 (46-25).
The run looked to have taken the wind out of the Dragons sails, but then came a trademark third quarter comeback of sorts.
14 straight points clawed Dragons within five points of the Rockets (45-40). Rihards Šulcs, Ricky Fetske, Jermayne Laing and Lycoudis all scored in the run.
A packed Dragons Den had now firmly awoken as roars of defence reverberated around the court.
Šulcs opened the final quarter’s scoring with a layup, but the visitors then thoroughly took control of the game.
An 18-6 run in the first five minutes of the fourth quarter saw Dragons down 78-55. The Rockets dominated the fourth and the Dragons simply couldn’t muster a response on this occasion.
The visitors outscored Bradford 26-14 in the final quarter to seal a much-deserved victory at the Dragons Den.
The final score, Bradford Dragons 63-86 Reading Rockets. The Rockets held the Dragons to a season-low 63 points in a game the team never really looked like winning.
A sentiment Coach Mellor echoed in his post-match thoughts, he said: “We were poor on both ends of the court. Apart from a decent run at the back end of the third quarter when we cut it to five, we were never really in it.”
The Official University of Bradford Player of the Game went to Rihards Šulcs who claimed an 8 th double-double of the season with 21 points and 12 rebounds.
Next up for the 12-11 Dragons is a season-defining home doubleheader where Coach Mellor’s team will look to effectively seal their playoff spot with a win. First up is the Derby Trailblazers on Saturday, March 14 at 6.15pm before facing the Thames Valley Cavaliers the following day at 4.15pm.
Photographs © Alex Daniel Photography