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Dragons’ News

Amazing Dragons Progress Through to Playoff Semi-Finals!

April 18, 2024

Bradford Dragons travelled to the National Basketball League’s second seeded team, Essex Rebels on Saturday for their quarter final fixture, in the end of season playoff tournament. But, despite the Dragons being ranked as clear underdogs, they returned from Colchester having secured a place in the semi-finals, following a spectacular 79-87 victory.

The Rebels are Division One’s most improved team this season, having missed out completely on a playoff berth in the previous two seasons. However, this time around Essex finished the season level on points with title winners Derby Trailblazers, who held the head-to-head advantage between the two teams.

In their two league fixtures against the Dragons, Essex had taken the win on both occasions. A seven point win (100-107) in the Dragons’ Den last November was then bettered by an eighteen point victory (96-78) on their home court in February.

On Saturday, the Rebels put the first points on the board, although the sides sparred with one another blow for blow throughout the opening period. The Dragons led for much of that quarter. But, in the final moments before the first scheduled break, it was Essex that took the advantage, closing out the period with a four point lead (18-14).

The second quarter didn’t get much better for Bradford, who were down by double digits (31-19) at the midpoint of the period. The home side added a further five points before the Dragons managed a further score. But then it was their turn to go on an unanswered drive, to reduce the deficit to nine points (36-27) at the half time interval.

The opening five minutes of the second half were evenly matched, with the two sides matching almost shot for shot. But then, slowly the Dragons started to take a hold of proceedings and by the time the penultimate quarter drew to a close, the scores were all square (58-58).

An early foul allowed the Rebels to put down two single points at the start of the final session of play. But, Bradford were in no mood to let this one slip and quickly restored parity. With just over four minutes remaining on the clock the sides still couldn’t be separated (66-66). The lead continued to change hands over the next couple of minutes.

However, it was Bradford that held their nerve to the end and built up an eight point lead in the final two minutes of the game. The scores finished at 79-87 in the Dragons’ favour.

Returning from a three week injury layoff, Bradford’s Justin Williams (sponsored by the Ireland Family) took the game high score with 29 points. His performance earned him the NBL Player of the Week Award. He was joined on the NBL team of the week by fellow Dragon, Zion Tordoff (sponsored by Bubbles and Barks Dog Grooming), who registered his trademark double-double with 20 points and 12 rebounds. Jordan Whelan (sponsored by Napoleon’s Casino & Restaurant, Bradford) followed on 14 points, whilst Ronald Blain (sponsored by Bliss Bakery Bakes and Positive Outcome Associates) also registered double figures with 11 points.

The victory earns Bradford a semi-final fixture, this coming weekend, against third seed Hemel Storm. The rules of the tournament state that the highest seeded team hosts the game, and therefore with Hemel outranking the Dragons, the fixture will be held at the Hemel Hempstead Leisure Centre. The fixture tips off at 7pm on Saturday evening, with a place in the Grand Final the following weekend against either Derby Trailblazers or Reading Rockets.

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