Saturdays game was a repeat of two weeks previous when the Spinners visited Bradford in the National Trophy. On that occasion Bradford claimed the win, with a 92-76 score-line and it seemed as though the home side were going to have it their own way again, this time around, as they streaked into a ten point lead (20-10) within the first five minutes of the game. However, a timely time-out called by the Spinners’ bench halted the Dragons’ flow as the lead was pulled back to just three points. But Bradford held firm and closed out the opening period of the game with a 28-21 advantage.
Lancashire turned the lead around in the second period and with only fifteen seconds left of the first half remaining they held a four-point advantage. However, a two-point layup by Rihards Sulcs, followed by a Lancashire turnover and a Rafi Saipe three-pointer, gave the Dragons the slightest of leads going into the break (46-45).
However, in a repeat of the previous meeting between the two sides, the Dragons took firm control of the game in the final sector of the game and with only four minutes of the game remaining they had restored their lead to eleven points (94-83) and effectively putting the game beyond the reach of their guests. The Spinners tried their hardest and did reduce the extent of Bradford’s lead, however the final buzzer sounded to signal a home win, with the Dragons hitting a ton for the first time this season (102-96).
Undoubtedly the game’s Most Valuable Player, Marcus Gooding was on fire for the Dragons, hitting a total of 39 points, including nine from fifteen three-point attempts. Rihards Sulcs contributed 14 points and Ricky Fetske, whose parents were visiting from the USA, added a further 13 points. Both Sulcs and Fetske took ten rebounds each to record double-doubles and, in a great team effort, Jermayne Laing and Jason Swaine also bagged 12 points apiece.
Sunday’s visitors to the Den, Team Newcastle University Knights, sit a division below the Dragons in the National Basketball League division two. A strange rule in the National Cup restricts teams that are playing against a lower division side to fielding only one American and therefore Bradford’s head coach, Chris Mellor was forced into making the difficult decision to rest Gooding for this fixture.
The Dragons did not have everything their own way during the opening quarter, as the second division outfit put pressure on the home defence. However, going into the first scheduled break the hosts held a slight advantage at 28-23.
Bradford upped the tempo in the second quarter, forcing the Newcastle bench to call for a time-out, just three minutes in and with their side facing an eleven-point deficit (40-29). But there was little respite for the visitors and as the half-time buzzer sounded the Dragons were sitting comfortably at 57-41.
The Dragons continued to exert their dominance throughout the second half of the game, whilst also providing plenty of game minutes for their bench. The lead had increased to twenty-three points by the end of the third period (79-56) and in the final quarter the home side stretched it out further to forty points, with the game finishing at 110- 70.
Rafi Saipe capped an impressive performance with 27 points to finish as the game’s high scorer. Fetske contributed 21 points, whilst Sulcs recorded his second double-double of the weekend with 20 points and 10 rebounds.
Mellor reflected on the weekends action, saying, “Against Spinners, it was a high scoring affair, where I thought both teams shot the ball well and just managed to put a decent run together in the fourth to build up a double figure lead. Against Newcastle, I wasn’t happy first half with our intensity but we played well in the last fifteen minutes and our defence created a lot of transition opportunities.”
Both the Under 16’s and Under 14’s were in action for the Dragons, in a double header at Buttershaw Business and Enterprise College on Saturday. The under 14’s beat Manchester Magic II (64-59) which was then followed up by another win for the under 16’s who convincingly defeated Durham Wildcats, 105-40.
The Dragons have also confirmed that guard Rob Donaldson has quit the club, due to other work commitments.
Photographs © ALEX DANIEL PHOTOGRAPHY