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Dragons’ News

Devastating end to Bradford Dragons’ Season!

April 26, 2024

Bradford Dragons travelled to the Storm Dome on Saturday evening to face Hemel Storm in a major semi-final fixture for the second time this season. In another epic encounter between these two teams, the result was only decided in the final seconds, with Bradford frustratingly on the wrong side of a single point score difference (80-79).

The first meeting between the teams this season was the KitKing Trophy semi-final in the Dragons’ Den. On that occasion the Dragons took a ten point victory (80-70) to secure the first ever major final in the club’s history. That was followed just two weeks later with the first of two league fixtures. Once again on the Dragons’ home court, Hemel extracted their revenge with an 81-93 away win. However, in the return fixture, it was the Dragons turn to triumph, this time by a massive eighteen points (81-99).

Having brushed aside the second seeds in last week’s quarter final game, the Dragons were in confident mood in the leadup to Saturday’s fixture. Hemel held the home advantage, on the strength of their higher seeding, based on the sides’ final league positions. They earned their semi final placing with a ten point home victory against Loughborough Riders, the previous week.

It was Bradford that put the first points on the board, taking an early four point lead with scores from Ronald Blain (sponsored by Bliss Bakery Bakes and Positive Outcome Associates) and Zion Tordoff (sponsored by Bubbles and Barks Dog Grooming). However this was quickly overturned by Hemel, who then built up a three point advantage of their own (7-4).

But, the opening quarter remained close throughout and with just over a minute remaining the Dragons held a slim advantage (22-23) following a trey from Joe Buchanan (sponsored by Meryl Valentine). But, before the period came to a close, the home side clawed themselves ahead and held a four point lead (27-23) at the first buzzer.

Tordoff closed the gap to two early in the second quarter. However, that was Bradford’s only score in the opening three minutes, during which Hemel opened up a double-digit lead (35-25). This fluctuated between seven and thirteen points for the remainder of the half and when the sides returned to the locker rooms at half time, the Home side held a strong eleven point advantage (53-42).

At the restart, Jordan Whelan (sponsored by Napoleon’s Casino and Restaurant, Bradford) sank a quick trey to reduce the deficit, but the sides matched one another throughout. With just 43 seconds on the clock, Micah Savery-Richards (sponsored by Milestone Design Ltd.) pulled the Dragons back within five points. But Hemel pulled away again before the penultimate period closed with the home sides back to ten points clear (69-59).

Into the final quarter and the home side’s lead was quickly extended to fourteen points, and it was still fourteen points four minutes in (77-63). But then, Whelan sank a trey and followed it up with a two to reduce the deficit to nine, causing Hemel’s coach to call an immediate timeout. But, even that wasn’t enough to stop Bradford’s momentum as Blain sank a lay-up to further reduce the gap to seven (77-70).

With just three minutes of the game remaining, Bradford were within five points. Then with under two minutes to go they closed it further to just three points (78-75) when Whelan sank two free throws from the foul line. Next it was Justin Williams (sponsored by the Ireland family) to sink a layup. Then, with just 43 seconds of play to go, Tordoff popped a two to complete the turnaround and unbelievably give the Dragons the lead (78-79).

Twenty seconds later, a foul by Rihards Sulcs (sponsored by Gio’s Italian Bar and Kitchen) sent Hemel to the line and they didn’t waste the chance to regain the lead, sinking both penalty throws. As a last throw of the dice, Chris Mellor called for a time out, to set up the final play with his side.

With just 1.7 seconds on the clock Sulcs was on the receiving end of a foul. With play restarting from the sideline, the ball was played to Williams who rose to take a three point jump shot with just 0.1 second on the clock. As the crowd held their breath, the ball struck the board and to the Dragons’ despair bounced back off the rim, giving the home side the slimmest of victories (80-79).

Jordan Whelan registered the game high score, netting 28 points for Bradford. Justin Williams followed up with 15 points, also adding 4 assists and 3 steals to his stats. Zion Tordoff registered another double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds, whilst Ronald Blain was also in double figures with ten points.

As a reward for their victory, Hemel now travel to Manchester this coming Sunday, where they will meet Reading Rockets in the grand final fixture to close out the 2023-24 season. Fourth seed Reading beat the top seed, Derby Trailblazers, in the semi finals (84-87).

This Friday, Bradford Dragons are hosting their end of season Awards Evening at Fields Sports and Social Club in Clayton. The evening will bring together the whole club, including the Juniors, Academy, Dragons 3 and the Division One side.

Photographs © Matt Cook

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