The London side were formed in 2010 by Lithuanian immigrants in London, initially playing in the British Lithuanians Basketball League, before joining the English Basketball League (NBL) in 2012. Now in their second season in the top division of the NBL, the team still consists purely of Lithuanians.
Having finished a very respectful fifth in the table, last season, the Londoners have struggled for consistency this season and were also penalised for failing to honour a fixture against Manchester Magic in November.
However, Bradford were under no illusions about the strength of their opposition, knowing that on their day Lituanica are capable of beating anybody.
The Dragons started the game with an unfamiliar starting five, with both Americans (Ricky Fetske and Marcus Gooding) warming the bench. In their place, Eisley Swaine and Antonio Deogratias took their place on court. However, the Dragons failed to get going in the opening quarter and by the time the buzzer sounded for the first scheduled break, they were facing a fifteen-point deficit, 32-17.
After the interval, Lituanica again took control of proceedings, once more building up a sizeable advantage, 82-65, by the close of the penultimate period of play. That lead was further increased, 92-71, by the half way point of the fourth quarter and, despite Bradford’s efforts to get themselves back into the game it was too little, too late. As the buzzer signalled the end of the fixture, there was still clear daylight between the two teams. Final score, 99-86.
Despite starting the game on the Dragons’ bench, Gooding finished as the game’s high scorer, with 32 points. Latvian, Rihards Sulcs added 20 points to the Bradford total, whilst home grown, Jermayne Laing also contributed 18 points. For Lituanica, Mantas Guzys hit 28 points, assisted by Ausridas Petraitis with 23 points.
Bradford’s Head Coach, Chris Mellor, pulled no punches after the game. “We played one good quarter and three bad ones to be honest,” said Mellor. “We turned the ball over more than in any game this season, which led to 31 points for them and we just didn’t compete in the second half to give ourselves any chance of winning.”
Bradford retain fifth place in the league table, for the moment, although several teams are now queueing up to take the slot from them, having games in hand over the Dragons.
The Dragons must now regroup and refocus, ready for their home fixture against high flying Derby Trailblazers next Saturday (14th January, 6:15pm). The two teams met on the opening day of the 2016/17 league fixtures, when Derby just clung on to take the victory by a solitary point. Bradford will be keen to extract their revenge this time around. However, Derby’s confidence will have been boosted, following their victory against current league leaders, Team Northumbria, on Sunday. Discounted tickets for the game can be purchased in advance via the Bradford Dragons website, or alternatively full priced tickets will be available on the door. This is Bradford’s only home fixture in January and they will therefore be hoping for a big crowd to help roar them on to victory.
In other fixtures, Dragons under 16’s travelled to Tees Valley Mohawks on Saturday, where the home side took the victory, 54-48. Despite the loss, Bradford are sitting at the top of the North East division, with a record of 12 wins and 2 losses. Meanwhile, the under 14’s were also away, at Stockport Falcons II, coming away with an emphatic victory, 16-61. The under 14’s are currently third in the North West II region, just behind Manchester Magic II and Lancashire Spinners Bury.