Bradford Dragons came away from their double-header weekend with two wins under their belt, beating Team Newcastle University Knights (64-69) in the North East on Saturday, before returning to their home court to take complete their brace of victories, against Hemel Storm (72-64).
Saturday’s game was the Dragons’ third meeting of the season against the Knights, with Newcastle having come out on top in both tightly fought games in the Dragons’ Den.
Bradford were caught sleeping at the start of the game, finding themselves twelve points down within the first two minutes (12-0). Ricky Fetske (sponsored by ALW Guitars) restored some parity, sinking the Dragons’ first three baskets, however at the halfway point of the opening period Newcastle were still nine points to the good (16-7).
The hosts increased their lead to eleven points, before Bradford then went on an unanswered eleven point run of their own to level the game at eighteen a-piece. Despite such a poor start to the game, the Dragons were ahead at the first buzzer (22-23).
The third quarter belonged to the hosts who led throughout, and when the buzzer sounded to signal the end of the period, it seemed as though the writing was on the wall for the Bradford side, who trailed by seven (51-44).
The final ten minutes started with the home side in possession, and they made no mistake in stretching their lead to nine points. However, the Dragons were not about to give in and slowly but surely, they ate into the deficit and at the half way point of the quarter the scores were once again tied (57-57), courtesy of a three pointer from Gooding.
With Bradford now in the ascendency, there was only going to be one winner and at the end of the game the visitors took the win by five points (64-69).
Fetske and Gooding shared the top spot for the Dragons’ scorers with 19 points each, whilst Swaine followed up with 11 points towards the winning total. The games high was shared between Newcastles’ Joey Bennett and Patrick Wrencher, both taking 20 points each.
Bradford’s Latvian forward, Šulcs, who is also the clubs longest serving player, stated, “After a slow start, we came together as a team and got some big stops when it mattered. We stayed close throughout the game and got a lead with just a few minutes left and didn’t look back. Some big team defence got us the win today.”
The home side quickly opened a five-point lead (5-0), with a two and then a three from Fetske. However, Hemel answered with a ten point streak to put themselves five points up and by the end of the quarter this had been further stretched to eleven (16-27).
Hemel increased their advantage to thirteen points, before Disraeli Lufadeju and Gooding put some points on the board for the Dragons. But despite the home sides best efforts, the visitors kept them at arms-length. With just one minute of the half remaining, another three from Gooding pulled the Dragons back to within five points, but Hemel again responded with a two-point jump shot and a couple of singles to finish the half with a nine-point lead (35-44).
Nine became eleven straight from the restart, but then the Dragons slowly and surely started to chip away at Hemel’s advantage. With three and a half minutes of the penultimate period to play, Gooding popped in another two points to tie the game and it was now Bradford that looked the most likely to take control. A thirteen-point turnaround saw the hosts entering the final quarter with a healthy four-point lead (54-50).
Storm pulled it back to a one-point ball game, straight from the restart however, Fetske sank a couple of twos to pull the Dragons back to five. But, Hemel refused to let go and with four minutes played, the gap was once again a single point. Bradford then received a warning shot, when Hemel’s AJ Roberts sank a three to put his side two points up.
Lufadeju responded to level the scores and then the ever reliable Fetske restored Bradford’s lead (62-60). Yet still the visitors would not let go and once again the game was tied, with just over two minutes of the game remaining. But with Bradford having the foul advantage, they were able to control the final minutes of the game, seeing it out with a hugely impressive eight-point win (72-64).
Roberts headed the scores for the visiting Hemel side, contributing a very respectable 18 points to his sides tally.
Top scorer, Gooding, who also picked up the Taco Bell Player of the Game award, commented after the game, “Today was a great showcase of us digging down deep and snatching a much needed win. We played together and never folded when our backs were against the wall, in the first half. We defended and rebounded well and it was a great way to finish up a great weekend for our team.
This Saturday, the Dragons return to the North East, this time to meet last seasons league champions, Team Northumbria. Basketball then returns to the Den the following Saturday, when Bradford entertain one of the Biggest names in the British game, Worthing Thunder.
Dragons’ under 14s lost 40-49 against Hatfield fliers on Saturday morning.
Photographs © Alex Daniel Photography