Bradford Dragons faced a double header last weekend, both matches against teams from the red side of the Pennines, but the white rose prevailed undefeated.
The Dragons travelled to Manchester Magic on Saturday, a team that they haven’t beaten in the previous eleven meetings between the two sides. However, on this occasion Bradford were comfortable winners, returning home on the right side of a 66-88 score line. Returning to their home court, the Dragons then welcomed the divisions bottom club, Lancashire Spinners, on Sunday, once again enjoying a convincing victory, 111-74.
With little over a minute of this opening period remaining, Disraeli Lufadeju dunked the ball to increase the lead to eleven points (14-25). However, a couple of late baskets from Manchester brought them back into single figures (18-25).
Magic’s Michael Anumba, the current number one in the prestigious DENG Top 50 rankings, reduced the deficit further, early in the second quarter and when Stefan Gill sank his three pointer, four minutes in, the gap was down to just four points (25-29). Kayin Darbey then layed up, to really get the pulses racing. However, Bradford had too much in their tank and when the half time buzzer sounded they had established a substantial fifteen-point lead (33-48).
The visitors didn’t relax after half time, and just as per the start of the first period, Fetske layed up once again in the opening seconds. The baskets kept on coming for the Dragons, with very little resistance from their hosts and when Lufadeju scored a two, half way through the period, a dominant Dragons were totally in control and thirty-one points ahead (35-66).
For Manchester, Anumba seemed to be fighting a solo battle at times and he did his best to keep the hosts in touch, but as the penultimate quarter drew to a close, his team were still twenty-five points behind (46-71).
With the win all but completed, the Dragons were able to utilise their bench, knowing that they had another game the following day. Manchester had no response to Bradford’s superiority, on the day, and could do nothing to stop the white rose side from finally breaking Magic’s spell over them. The game ended 66-88.
Fetske continued his rich vein of form, heading the Dragon’s scorers on 18 points. But it was a huge team effort in which no fewer than six Dragons’ players achieved double figure scores. Rihards Šulcs (sponsored by Templewood Photography) shot 16 points, adding 9 rebounds and 7 assists into the mix, whilst Marcus Gooding (Sponsored by Gooding Funeral Services) followed up with 15 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists. Bradford born, Jermayne Laing contributed 14 points to the winning total, and Eisley Swaine and Lufadeju shot 10 points apiece.
However, the game high went to Manchester’s Anumba, the youngster scoring a hugely respectable 24 points.
The following day, Bradford welcomed Lancashire Spinners into the Dragons’ Den. The Spinners have had an incredibly hard campaign this time around, having had to completely rebuild their squad in the summer. Despite bringing in some reinforcements, just before Christmas the team have failed to record a single league victory and are already consigned to division two next season.
It took a while for the game to get started, Lufadeju hitting a three pointer, ninety seconds in, to open the scoring. But Lancashire kept it close during the opening period and, despite Bradford opening up a ten-point margin, this was reduced to just five at the first buzzer (19-14).
If the Spinners were still under any illusions about recording their first win of the season, this was firmly put to rest in the third quarter, as a rampant Bradford side turned up the heat.
Leading by 36 points (82-46) and with three minutes remaining in the third, Dragons’ coach, Chris Mellor once again brought his bench into play, this time giving an extended run out to youngster, Jayden Martin.
Oliver Hylands hit the only basket in what remained of the period and Bradford went into the final ten minutes thirty-eight points ahead (84-46).
With no doubt over the final result, the Dragons could afford to ease off a little in the final period. However, the highlight of the quarter, if not the entire game, came when Martin span off his defender and sank a magnificent two-point jump shot, sending the home crowd wild.
With little over a minute of the game remaining, Fetske bucketed for three, to give Bradford the ton and as the game came to a close, the Dragons could celebrate their biggest win of the season, 111-74.
Fetske took the game high score, with 25 points, whilst Šulcs and Gooding contributed 18 points each. Lufadeju followed up with sixteen points. However, the official TACO Bell Player of the Game award went to Eisley Swaine, who made 14 assists to add to the 12 points of his own.
The victory secures Bradford place in the end of season playoffs, although they are no longer able to achieve a top four spot to guarantee home advantage. However, on current form the Dragons must feel confident regarding their prospects.
“Sunday, we weren’t great early on, but as the game progressed our defence and concentration improved, and a good third period sealed the game.”
The Dragons final league fixture takes place in the Dragons Den next Saturday (24th) when Derby Trailblazers provide the opposition. Bradford will be looking to sign off the regular season on a high, and to extend their winning streak to four games. The game tips off at 6:15pm and tickets can be purchased in advance from the club website.
Dragons under 16s made the long journey up to Edinburgh Kings on Sunday, losing out by 82 points to 59.
Photographs © Alex Daniel Photography