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Dragons’ News

Dragons Calm the Storm

February 28, 2024

Bradford Dragons made the journey to their long-time rivals, Hemel Storm, on Saturday in the latest round of National Basketball League Division One fixtures. Despite Hemel starting the game as clear favourites, it was the Dragons who came out victorious, humbling their hosts with an eighteen point win (81-99).

Last season’s unbeaten treble winners are once again in the running for league honours this time around. They currently sit third in the table, behind leaders Derby Trailblazers and second placed Essex Rebels.

The two sides, have already met twice this season, with the Dragons coming out on top in the semi-final of the Kit King Trophy, but Hemel then extracting their revenge in the league, just two weeks later. But the rivalry between the two sides goes back way further, to the days when the two sides were rising through the lower divisions.

It was a packed house at the Hemel Hempstead Leisure Centre, where the home side offer what is widely renowned as one of the best game night experiences in the league. And the home side gave their crowd something to cheer, when returning hero Taylor Johnson took advantage of a rare Ronald Blain (sponsored by Bliss Bakery Bakes and Positive Outcome Associates) turnover to dunk the ball for the first two points of the game.

Blain quickly made amends with a two-point layup to get the Dragons off the mark and this was followed by a trey from his fellow American, Justin Williams (sponsored by the Ireland family) to give the Dragons an early lead (2-5).

For the remainder of the opening quarter the two sides more or less cancelled one another out, with the lead swinging from side to side. Although the Dragons did manage to establish a five point lead (20-25) with two minutes of the period remaining, the home side fought back to reduce the gap to just two points (27-29) at the first scheduled break.

At the start of the second period, Jabari Edwards (sponsored by KW Basketball) picked up an offensive rebound and layed up for another two points. Williams then added another trey to extend the Dragons lead to seven (27-34). Although the next two scores went for the home side, reducing the gap to just three points, by the half way point of the quarter the Dragons held an eight point advantage (34-42).

Jordan Whelan (Sponsored by Napoleons Casino & Restaurant, Bradford) and Williams further extended the gap to twelve and despite the best efforts of the home side, the difference was thirteen points (44-57) by the time the buzzer sounded for half time.

It was a slow start to the third quarter, with only four points being added in the first two and a half minutes – all going in Hemel’s favour. Zion Tordoff finally got Bradford going again, sinking a two-point jump shot, but Sam Newman quickly cancelled that out with a layup for the hosts. But half way through the penultimate quarter the Dragons’ lead was up to fourteen (52-66).

Bradford then went on a ten point unanswered run to give themselves a dominant 24 point lead. Despite a late rally by Storm, the gap was still at 21 points (62-83) going into the final quarter.

With the game all but won, the travelling Dragons could be excused for taking their foot off the gas in the final quarter. But, there was nothing that the hosts could do to stop their guests from romping to an eighteen point victory (81-99) in the Hemel Storm Dome.

The game high score was shared between Bradford’s Justin Williams and Hemel’s Taylor Johnson, both of whom bucketed 23 points for their respective sides. Williams also recorded 9 rebounds in his MVP performance.

Ronald Blain followed up with 20 points for Bradford, whilst Jordan Whelan also contributed 17 points to the winning total. Zion Tordoff recorded yet another double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds.

The Dragons travel away again this coming Saturday, this time a slightly shorter trip up to the North East, where they will face off against the current fourth placed side, Newcastle University (tip off 2pm).  The action then returns to the Dragons Den the following weekend when Worthing Thunder are the visitors in the Dragons’ final home game of the regular season. The fixture on Saturday 9th March tips off at 6:15pm and tickets are now available via the club website.

 

Photograph © Matt Cook

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