Already a month into the 2022-23 National Basketball League season, the Bradford Dragons finally hosted their first home fixture on Saturday evening. The visitors, London Lions II, roared into the Dragon’s Den, looking for their first win of the season, but Bradford were in no mood to disappoint the home supporters and notched up their third win on the bounce, 92-73.
The first points of the game came from the free throw line, following a foul on Bradford’s Ricky Fetske on his way to the basket. The American sank both shots from the line to put the home side ahead, a lead which was swiftly doubled by Jordon Whelan’s reverse lay-up.
Moments later Dave Walsh bucketed the first trey of the game, extending the Dragons’ lead to 7 points before the Lions finally put their first points on the board. Suddenly, the scores were all square again at seven points a-piece, but then Bradford stepped things up a gear, taking the next nine points and forcing London’s head coach into the first time-out of the game, at 16-7.
But it didn’t take long for the Dragons to further extend their lead, Whelan hitting a three from wide on the left. And when Jabari Edwards also sank his shot from beyond the arc, Bradford’s lead was as high as twenty points (29-9). A final basket from the Lions, before the first scheduled break left the Dragons eighteen points clear at the end of the first quarter (29-11).
Thoughts that the Dragons were going to run away with the game were somewhat extinguished in the second quarter, as the Lions slowly clawed their way back into the mix. A buzzer beating three by the Lions’ Taiga Forster sent the away side back to the locker room with renewed hope, having reduced their deficit to just thirteen points (41-28).
After the interval, the Dragons started to pull away again, stretching their lead back up to eighteen points (52-34), before London again pulled it back to within twelve. The Lions were having the better of the boards at both ends of the court and had they been more clinical with their shots it could have been much worse for the Dragons – something that they will no-doubt look to put right before their next outing.
However, the hosts pulled away yet again, but another buzzer beating three pointer, again from Forster, saw the third period end at 66-52.
Bradford looked to put the game out of reach, early in the final quarter, reopening an eighteen point lead (72-54). But, just when it seemed that they had it in the bag, the Lions stepped things up. It was nervous times for the fan as the visitors ate into the Dragons lead and with more than six minutes remaining on the clock the gap was into single figures and as low as seven points (72-65).
With just two minutes on the clock, the lead was once again in double figures (81-71). Momentarily it was back to nine (82-73) but that was to be the final points for the visitors and the Dragons put down the final ten points of the game to take the win (92-73).
Jordan Whelan picked up the Official Calderdale College Player of the Game Award, with another game high score, this time with a staggering 37 points, which saw him named in the NBL team of the week for a second week in a row.
Ricky Fetske contributed 14 points, but fell one rebound short of notching up another double-double, and Dave Walsh was also in double figures with 11 points.
For the visitors, Igor Stokic clocked up 21 points, whilst Ignas Juskevicius and Michael Amako registered 12 points each.
It was a busy, but successful weekend for the Dragons, with all three of their Junior teams in action. On Saturday the under 14s travelled to Rotherham Hawks, where they picked up their first win of the season (35-56). Later that day, the under 18s were in Doncaster to face the Hatfield Fliers, and they too picked up the win (41-76).
The weekend was completed when the under 16s took the trip to face East Durham Lions on Sunday afternoon, completing a clean sweep of Dragons wins with a 45-54 victory.
Next Saturday, there is a triple billing of basketball action in the Dragons Den – Calderdale Colleges, Inspire Centre – kicking off with the under 14s against Barnsley Metros, followed by the Under 16s facing the Tees Valley Mohawks. This is then followed on Saturday evening by the senior men, who tip-off at 6:15pm against the Loughborough Riders.
The seniors then travel south on Sunday afternoon for a National Cup fixture against the Milton Keynes Breakers, whilst the under 18s have a home league fixture against City of Leeds Black.
Photographs © Alex Daniel Photography