Bradford Dragons made the journey to the Essex University Arena in Colchester on Saturday, for a crucial fixture against rival play-off hopefuls, Essex Rebels. In what was possibly the Dragons’ most comprehensive team performance of the season so far, they silenced the Rebels with a huge thirty-eight point victory (60-98).
This season’s National Basketball Division One table is currently one of the closest in history, with only six points separating the fourth and tenth placed teams and with only the top eight sides qualifying for the end of season playoffs, every point gained is crucial in the battle to secure a position.
Whilst the Dragons already held one of those prized berths in the standings, the Rebels were just outside of the running in eleventh position, but only four points (2 wins) off the running.
Bradford started the game at pace, with Rihards Sulcs (sponsored by Gio’s Italian Bar and Kitchen) and Ricky Fetske combining to put up the first nine points of the game, forcing Essex head coach, Ross Norfolk, into an early time-out.
As play resumed, Jake Eynon responded for the Rebels to reduce the deficit to five points but the Dragons were in determined mood and pulled away again. With just over a minute of the quarter remaining, Jacques Misambu hit a trey to put the Dragons twelve points clear; however, scores from Owen Chose and Ben Winter made the scoreline look more presentable at the buzzer (19-25).
Jordan Whelan hit a further three in the opening seconds of the second period, which was followed by the same from Justin Williams and a two from Micah-Savery Richards (sponsored by Milestone Design Ltd.) and suddenly the gap was up to fourteen (19-33). The Dragons were in total control throughout the quarter, restricting their hosts to just eight points and taking a huge thirty-four points of their own. As the sides returned to the locker rooms at half time, the Rebels were facing a thirty point deficit (27-59).
After the break, the game took time to get going again, with neither side scoring in the opening two minutes. However, Fetske made the breakthrough with another trey to further extend the visitors lead to thirty-five points and whilst the third quarter was a much tighter affair that gap still prevailed going into the final period (46-81).
With only three minutes of the game remaining, Coach Mellor took the opportunity to give some minutes to 16 year old Camron Simpson (sponsored by Asley Ajay Simpson, USA) for the second game running. The young Academy student wasted no time in making his mark on the game scoring seven points in his short time on court.
At the final buzzer, and having led throughout the entire game, the Dragons recorded their biggest win of the season so far (60-98) moving them into joint fifth in the table, just two points behind Reading Rockets and a coveted home fixture in the play off first round.
In a game in which all ten of the Dragons’ game day roster scored, Ricky Fetske and Justin Williams contributed 17 points apiece, closely followed by Micah Savery-Richards and Jordan Whelan on 16 points each. But the stand out player for the Dragons was Rihards Sulcs, whose 11 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals earned him a spot on the Rebound NBL team of the week.
Owen Chose headed the scorers for Essex, with 17 points, followed by Lee Linton-Hodges with 11 points and Tyreese Hudson with 10 points.
Dragons head coach, Chris Mellor, commented, “With five games remaining and the league table being so congested there is obviously still a lot to play for.
“I feel that we have improved defensively as the season has progressed and with 4 of our last five games being on the road, at Thames Valley, Derby, Newcastle and Worthing, maintaining our defence mindset and focus will be the target.”
The first of those away fixtures is this coming Saturday at Thames Valley Cavaliers. The fixture at Uxbridge College tips off at 6:30pm.
The following Saturday the Dragons visit Derby Trailblazers who recently made it through to the BBL Cup semi-finals, where they were eventually eliminated by the Caledonia Gladiators, in the first of two games that weekend. On Sunday (19 March) the Essex Rebels will make the return trip to the Inspire Centre at Calderdale College where the Dragons will be hoping to repeat last weekends win. Tickets for the Rebels fixture, which tips off at 4:15pm, can be purchased in advance from the club website.
The under 14s and under 16s both had wins at York Eagles on Saturday. The under 14s turned around a nine point halftime deficit to win the game 52-59, whilst the under 16s had a slightly easier ride, winning their fixture 48-73.