Bradford Dragons’ took the long journey down to Southampton on Saturday, to face Team Solent Kestrels, and returned home with the points following a sensational 23 point victory (60-83).
Solent have been one of the most successful teams in the National Basketball League over recent years, having won the league title for the last four consecutive seasons, including their shutout season in 2019-20. The Solent Sports Complex has, for many years been a place of fear and dread for the other teams in the division.
The Kestrels, however, have had a slow start to the season this time around. Having reached the quarter finals of the KitKing Trophy, they were soundly beaten by Derby Trailblazers (70-110). Then on the opening weekend of the NBL season, they suffered losses at both Team Newcastle University (92-84) and newly promoted Westminster Warriors (87-79).
Team Solent are clearly going through a period of transition under new head coach Ben Stanley and they are yet to field their two American imports, who are currently awaiting clearance to play, whom they will be relying on to kick start their season.
There was no better time for the Dragons to venture into the Kestrels nest and they set their stall out early with Micah Savery-Richards (sponsored by Milestone Eco Design, the UK’s first producer of totally green Kitchens of Recycled Content) putting down the opening basket.
Solent hit straight back with a three from Greg Durand to put them up by one, but as the quarter progressed their visitors slowly took control of the game. As the buzzer sounded for the end of the opening period the Dragons were up by six, at 18-24.
Jacques Misambu extended the lead to eight points early in the second quarter and, two minutes in, the visitors lead hit double figures for the first time (20-30) when Jordan Whelan layed up off the glass.
The Kestrels struggled to get any momentum, scoring just eleven points in the quarter and as the teams headed back to the locker rooms for their half-time refreshments the Dragons led by forty-three points to twenty-nine.
The second half started with multiple errors from both sides but consecutive layups by Jabari Edwards opened the third quarter scores. The Kestrels then hit back through Kyle Walker and Elias Poorman to hit the next six points before Whelan layed up to restore the fourteen point lead. Solent again took the next points and then Fetske saw his dunk attempt bounce back off the rim but, taking his own rebound, he then got a lucky bounce off the rim to add a further two to Bradford’s tally.
The Dragons could sense the victory and, as the quarter progressed, they continued to stamp their dominance on the game, finishing the penultimate period with a twenty-two point lead (62-40).
With the game all but won, the Dragons were on cruise control in the final quarter and they again were the first to strike, this time Fetske with an Alley Oop from Edwards’ hanging pass.
A couple of Dave Walsh trademark threes then saw the Dragons extend their advantage to thirty-two points (43-75) with only seven minutes remaining on the clock.
Bradford’s head coach, Chris Mellor, gave some time to twins Emils and Daniels Knaps, along with 15-year-old Camron Simpson for the latter part of the quarter, with the threesome of academy players doing enough to show why Mellor has entrusted them with seats on the Bradford bench.
With the Kestrels playing for nothing but pride, they managed to close the gap to twenty-three points (60-83). The Dragons took their first win of the season whilst, surprisingly, the four times champions remain winless from their first three games.
Jordan Walsh took the games high score with 25 personal points, with Savery-Richards (12), Walsh (11) and Fetske (11) also making double figures.
For Solent, Elias Poorman scored 12 points, closely followed by Kyle Walker and Greg Durand, both of who bucket 10 points apiece.
The Dragons travel to the capital next weekend for a match up against Westminster Warriors (Saturday 29th, 5:30pm).
The following week, 5th November, sees the Dragons first home fixture of the season against London Lions II. Tip off at Calderdale College’s Inspire Centre is at 6:15pm and tickets are now on sale via the Dragons’ website.
Photos © Kai Johnson