Bradford Dragons fell to their third home defeat on the bounce on Saturday evening, against Team Newcastle University, in the National Basketball League Division One. In a game which was tightly fought throughout, the Dragons were slain in the final quarter as Newcastle went home with the win (79-85).
The two teams were locked on points, in the league table, prior to Saturday’s fixture with both teams holding an identical 5 wins and 7 losses record. Both teams knew that this was a key fixture, as the sides jockey for a place in the top eight (playoff) positions.
Newcastle drew first blood in the game, a three pointer from Themba Yabantu; however, this was quickly cancelled out by twos from Jordan Whelan and Micah Savery-Richards (sponsored by Milestone Design Limited, Britain’s first producer of totally green ‘Kitchens of Recycled Content’) giving Bradford their first lead of the game.
Scores remained close throughout the opening quarter of the game, with the two sides grappling for the lead, which swung one way and then the other.
With just under two minutes of the first period to play, Bradford’s American Point Guard, Justin Williams, landed a trey to give Bradford a one point lead (17-16). His fellow American, Jordan May, responded for the visitors with another trey, his third three pointer of the quarter, to restore a two point lead for Newcastle. Ethan Rose then sank a two point layup to level things up once more, now with less than a minute on the clock, but that was then cancelled out by Newcastle’s Christian Alexander. It looked as though that was to be the last score of the quarter, but with only one second on the clock, Rose was fouled by Newcastle’s Temi George, sending the young Dragon to the line to shoot two. Rose successfully converted both attempts and as the buzzer sounded time on that opening period, there was nothing to separate the two sides (21-21).
May opened the scoring in the second quarter with yet another three, but the script remained the same, with neither side managing to stamp their authority on proceedings. Whilst Bradford never actually held the lead in the quarter, they kept the scores close and tied the game numerous times. In an almost identical finish to the first half as we had seen in the opening quarter, Alexander bucketed his jump shot to put the visitors two up with just 39 seconds of the half remaining. This time a foul by Jason Soodeen sent Justin Williams to the line, with just 2 seconds to play but, unlike Rose in the previous period, Williams sank just one of his two shots, leaving Newcastle with the slimmest of leads over the half time interval (39-40).
The hosts started the second half of the game with real purpose, taking the first six points through Whelan, club captain Ricky Fetske and Williams (45-40). Scores from Emmanuel Kanwei and a rare two pointer from May, pulled the visitors back within one, before Dave Walsh opened it back to three in Dragons’ favour. However, May then sank another two and followed it up with yet another trey to put the visitors back in front.
But with five minutes of the quarter gone, the home side finally took a hold on proceedings, registering the next ten points without reply, to register the biggest lead of the game (59-51). But Newcastle weren’t in the mood to give up without a fight and when the buzzer indicated the end of the penultimate period Bradford’s lead was down to just three (61-58).
With everything to play for in the final quarter, Kanwei registered the first two scores, both two pointers, to give Newcastle an early advantage. But the game followed a similar pattern to the rest of the game, with both teams cancelling one another out and the lead changing sides like a pendulum.
With under two minutes of the game remaining, Whelan gave Bradford a single point lead (79-78) from the free throw line and with Newcastle already in the penalty, having clocked up five fouls in the period, it seemed that Bradford held the advantage. However, a series of sloppy and unnecessary turnovers allowed Newcastle to register the next two scores and panic set in amongst the Bradford camp.
With just thirty eight seconds on the clock, the game was still finely balanced at 79-81 but a further turnover all but ended Bradford’s chances. The often used, but rarely effective tactic of fouling and hoping that the opposition miss from the line, led to Newcastle adding a further four points in the dying seconds of the game and in what many will see as a missed opportunity for the home side, Team Newcastle travelled back to the North East with a six point win (79-85).
Jordan Whelan was the top scorer for the Dragons, with 20 points. The Calderdale College Player of the Game Award was picked up by Ricky Fetske who registed a double-double with 15 points and 16 rebounds. Also in double figures for Bradford were Dave Walsh (13 points) and Justin Williams (11 points).
The game high score was recorded by Newcastle’s Jordan May, who scored 34points, 21 of which were from beyond the arc. Only one other player reached double figures for the visitors, Emmanuel Kanwei with ten points.
The Dragons continue their long run of home fixtures this coming Saturday, when Team Solent Kestrels make the long trip up to West Yorkshire from Southampton. Tip off is at the usual time of 6:15pm and discounted tickets can be purchased in advance via the club website (https://www.bradforddragons.co.uk/tickets).
In other news, a rearranged fixture at Tees Valley Mohawks saw Dragons’ under 18s suffer their heaviest defeat of the season (77-27).
Dragons 3, also suffered defeat, in the Leeds Basketball League Division Three, going down 43-42 at Harrogate Raiders, in the last minute of a game in which they led at the end of each of the first three quarters.
Photographs © Max Lomas