Bradford Dragons entertained the Reading Rockets in the Dragons Den on Saturday evening, falling to their third defeat on the bounce (77-88), as the visitors finally picked up their first win of the 2022-23 season.
Reading are currently one of the longest established teams in the British game, celebrating their 25th Anniversary in 2023. However, the start of this season has not been kind to them, having failed to win in any of their first five fixtures.
Bradford, on the other hand, have experienced a reasonable start to the season, taking three wins from their first four games, but suffered a double defeat last weekend with a home defeat against Loughborough Riders in the league, followed by a shock cup exit at third division Milton Keynes Breakers the following day.
The visitors won the jump ball at the start of the game, but Lewis Champion failed to sink his three-point attempt. Bradford’s Ricky Fetske picked up the rebound, but then turned the ball over with a bad pass allowing Reading’s Jermiah Jenkins a shot at the basket, which again failed to go through the hoop.
Fetske registered the opening points of the game with a lay-up, but Reading responded almost immediately with a trey from Troy Cracknell. Whelan then put the Dragons ahead again with a two and then doubled his tally to extend the lead. However, Reading came straight back at them and by the half way point of the opening period, they had the lead by a clear four points.
Micah Savery-Richards (sponsored by Milestone Design Ltd., Britain’s first producer of totally green kitchens of recycled content) halved the deficit and Dave Walsh then halved it again from the foul line, before Savery-Richards then pulled the scores level.
Reading pulled away again but, in the closing moments of the quarter, scores from Jermayne Laing and Jordan Whelan sent Bradford into the first break with a one-point lead (17-16).
The second quarter remained close through the first six minutes, but then Reading led primarily by Zackary Powell rocketed into a twelve-point (33-45) lead before the half-time buzzer, leaving Chris Mellor’s side with a tough task in the second half.
Fetske bucketed the first points of the third quarter, but once again the two sides cancelled each other out bucket for bucket. With just a minute of the quarter remaining Finleigh Porter made a lay-up for Reading extending their lead to 16 points. Scores from Fetske and Whelan, before the buzzer, pulled the Dragons back to just nine points behind, before another two-pointer from Porter ensured that the Rockets lead was in double figures (57-68) going into the final quarter.
And what a final quarter it was. Three and a half minutes in Troy Cracknell hit a trey to put Reading sixteen points up (59-75). But then, Bradford slowly started to bring themselves back int contention. Scores from Savery-Richards, Jabari Edwards, Rihards Sulcs and Whelan saw the gap reduced to just five points with 94 seconds of play remaining.
But with Bradford in the ascendancy, a technical foul was called on Dragons’ coach, Mellor, sending Cracknell to the line for a single shot. As play restarted another foul was then called on Edwards, with just over a minute on the clock. The Bradford players clearly disagreed with the referee’s decision and words were exchanged, resulting in further technical fouls being awarded to both Savery-Richards (his fifth foul of the game) and Jordan Whelan. With Richards already ejected, Whelan was adjudged to have said something further to the referee, who awarded him a second technical, which meant he had to leave the arena for the remainder of the game.
Cracknell made no mistake with any of the resultant free throws, to extend their advantage to nine points. Then, a foul by Edwards sent Reis Pinnock to the line, where he made one of his two attempts to push it out further to ten points.
Walsh responded with a trey but then, with just ten seconds left Edwards was called for an unsportsmanlike foul on Jenkins and the reading player sank both from the line.
In a desperate attempt to regain possession, Walsh then fouled but again Cracknell converted two from the foul line. Walsh had one final attempt for a further trey, but the ball bounced back from the rim and the game ended at 77-88, the Rockets first win of the season.
Jordan Whelan was Bradfords top scorer with 20 points, followed by Ricky Fetske on 15 points. Micah Savery-Richards, Dave Walsh and Jabari Edwards all contributed ten points each to the Dragons tally.
The game high score went to Troy Cracknell of the Rockets, with 24 points, assisted by Jermiah Jenkins (18 points), Zackary Powell (13 points) and Finleigh Porter (11 points).
The Dragons now move on to the Manchester Basketball Centre this coming Saturday, where they face newly promoted Manchester Magic who, like Reading, picked up their first win of the season at the weekend.
In other news, Dragons under 18s entertained York Eagles under 18s on Sunday afternoon. The Eagles travelled home with the points having inflicted a 51-62 defeat on the young Dragons.
Photographs © LS Media