Bradford Dragons faced a second consecutive double-header weekend with a visit to newly promoted London Elite on Saturday, in the National Basketball League Division One, followed by a home National Cup fixture against second division Bristol Academy Flyers II on Sunday afternoon. Fresh from their triumph in the KitKing Trophy semi-final the previous weekend a buoyant Bradford side returned from London with a thirty-two point victory (73-105), before ejecting Bristol from the cup competition by a similar margin (89-55).
It was the Dragons’ first visit to the Capital City Academy, the home of London Elite who topped Division Two South last season, with a strong 17-5 record. This season, however, they have found early life in the top flight a lot more difficult with three losses from their first four games, their only win coming against bottom of the table Barking Abbey.
Likewise, despite their success in the KitKing Trophy, Bradford have got off to a shaky start in the League, with just one win from five, despite all their games being closely contested.
Elite took first blood in the game, with Afrasyab Khalil laying up inside the first ten seconds of the game. Justin Williams (sponsored by The Ireland Family) responded with a trey for Bradford, only for Kane Daley to retake the lead for the hosts. But then a combination of scores from Joe Buchanan (sponsored by Meryl Valentine), Williams and Micah Savery-Richards (sponsored by Milestone Design Ltd.) quickly put Dragons six points up (4-10).
Just before the halfway point of that opening period, Bradford’s lead had grown to ten points (6-16) and despite Elte pulling back to within just four points, by the time the first quarter drew to a close the travelling Dragons were sitting pretty, eighteen points ahead (14-32).
Bradford maintained their control throughout the second quarter and when the two sides returned to the locker rooms for the half time break the lead had been extended to twenty-six points (32-58).
There was little respite for the home side after the break, with the Dragons further increasing their lead to thirty-six in the third period of play (42-78).
The advantage was stretched to forty-one points early in the final quarter, but with the game all but won for the Dragons, the home side played their best basketball of the game in the final seven minutes of the game, clawing the deficit back to 32 points before the final buzzer, though not sufficient enough to prevent the Dragons inflicting their biggest defeat of the season to date upon them (73-105).
Micah Savery-Richards and Joe Buchanan both registered 27 points for the Dragons, with Micah also adding 6 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals in a performance which earned him a place on the NBL team of the week. Justin Williams added 18 points towards the winning total, whilst Zion Tordoff (sponsored by Bubbles and Barks Dog Grooming) (12 points, 10 rebounds) and Rihards Sulcs (sponsored by Gio’s Italian Bar and Kitchen) (10 points) also recorded double figures.
Afrasyab Khalil topped the score charts for London Elite, with 24 points, with Kane Daley their only other double figure points scorer with 10.
Returning to the Inspire Centre the following day, the Dragons welcomed Bristol Academy Flyers II into the Dragons’ Den for a National Cup fixture. Dragon’s went into the fixture as clear favourites against the second division side, but would have last year’s defeat at the then third division Milton Keynes Breakers in the back of their minds.
Savery-Richards gave Bradford the early lead with a two-point jump shot, although the game took time to spark into life. The first three minutes produced just two baskets, the other being a lay-up from Tordoff, amongst multiple missed efforts from both sides. In a relatively low scoring first quarter the Dragons closed out with a six point lead (19-13)
The home side did the most damage in the second period, taking the quarter by sixteen-points (30-14), to increase their overall advantage to twenty-two (49-27) going into the interval.
After the break, Dragons’ Head Coach, Chris Mellor, took the opportunity to give some game time to his bench, and although the third period got off to another slow start, sixteen year-old Camron Simpson brought the crowd to their feet when he sank the first points of the quarter. The young Academy player caused further rapturous applause two minutes later with his first of two successful three point attempts, which extended the home side’s lead to thirty points (60-30).
However, the next twelve points went in Bristol’s direction, who closed the gap to just eighteen (60-42) although when the buzzer signalled the end of the penultimate period the Dragon’s had once again extended their advantage to 23 points (68-45).
Jacques Misambu (sponsored by Ballerism) got the ball rolling in the final quarter with a lay-up, and Buchanan then added a trey to further increase the gap between the two sides. In that final period of play, the home side restricted their guests to just ten points, taking the win by thirty-four points (89-55) to round off a successful weekend for West Yorkshire’s number one basketball club.
Zion Tordoff (18 points) was the leading scorer for the Dragons, but it was Jacques Misambu who picked up the Calderdale College Player of the Game Award , contributing 16 points to the winning tally, including three from four attempts from beyond the arc. Justin Williams (13 points) and Jabari Edwards (12 points) also registered double figures.
Matt Gonzalo (16 points) was the only Bristol player to record a double figure score Giuseppe Landolfi and Nikolas Sagkovits closest to him with 9 points each, the latter of the two also being the only player on court to register 10 rebounds.
Just two weeks after the Dragons’ despatched Hemel Storm in the semi finals of the KitKing Trophy, the Storm return to the Dragons’ Den this Saturday evening (6:15pm), this time for a Division One fixture. Whilst the Dragons will be keen to extend their current winning run, Hemel will certainly feel that they have a score to settle and fans are guaranteed to witness a monumental tussle between these two sides.
Supporters are encouraged to pre-book their tickets via www.bradforddragons.co.uk where a 20% Early Bird discount is available on all bookings made before midnight on Friday.