Bradford Dragons hosted Barking Abbey, in a National Basketball League Division One fixture at the Inspire Centre on Saturday night. Despite a gutsy performance from the visitors the Dragons did enough to ensure that they finished the year with a much needed win, 96-81.
Barking, who currently sit bottom of the table, are the only club without a win so far this season. However, they came close to a first win against Newcastle University in their previous game and entered the Dragons’ Den full of confidence.
The Dragons were missing both of their big men, with Ricky Fetske (sponsored by Vision Properties, Leeds) still on the injury list and Zion Tordoff (Sponsored by Bubbles and Barks Dog Grooming) excluded due to concussion rules, having taken a blow to the head the previous weekend, in the National Cup defeat at Newcastle.
But despite the lack of a big man, Micah Savery-Richards (sponsored by Milestone Design Ltd.) won the tip-off, sending Rihards Šulcs down the court to open the scoring with an early two point layup. Jordan Whelan (Sponsored by Napoleons Casino & Restaurant, Bradford) followed that up with a trey, to give the Dragons a five point lead.
The Dragons maintained the lead throughout the opening quarter and as the buzzer sounded for the first scheduled break in play, their advantage was up to eight points (37-29).
The second period was a completely different story though, with the Dragons struggling to build on their lead. When Juan Manning stepped up to the line for two shots, with just two and a half minutes of the half remaining, the game was tied at 43 apiece. Moziah Danchie then layed up to give Barking the lead, and the home side knew by now that they had a real fight on their hands.
Bradford’s young Academy player, Camron Simpson, stepped up with a three, to restore Bradford’s lead and then Justin Williams (sponsored by Meryl Vickery) sank his layup to. However Manning had the final say of the half, again with a layup, leaving Bradford with the slimmest of leads as the teams left the court for their half time refreshments (48-47).
After the break, Jabari Edwards (sponsored by KW Basketball) quickly extended the home advantage to three points, but Ethan Conway cancelled that out with a trey to level the scores once more. The two sides battled it out basket for basket over the next few minutes and at the midpoint of the third quarter there was still only a single point to separate the two sides (59-58)
But gradually the Dragons’ then started to pull themselves clear and when Williams sank another trey, in the final seconds of the penultimate quarter, their lead was into double figures (77-67).
There was no way back for the visitors, as Bradford pushed on and extended their lead to nineteen points (93-74), with little over three minutes of the game remaining. And although the visitors had the better of those final three minutes, it was too late for them to make any real impact on the final score, with the Dragons taking the win by fifteen points (96-81).
The game high score went to Justin Williams with an impressive 27 points, 5 rebounds and 6 assists, but even that was only good enough to share the player of the game award with Rihards Šulcs who contributed 15 points, 13 rebounds, 4 assists and 6 steals. Jordan Whelan was not far behind in the rankings with 22 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists.
For Barking, Moziah Danche bucketed a very respectable 23 points, whilst Ethan Conway was their only other player to hit double figures with 12 points.
Chris Mellor’s side now have the opportunity to reset and regroup before their next game on Saturday 13th January against Loughborough Riders. Originally scheduled to be played at Loughborough University, the game has now been switched to the Dragons’ Den, with the away fixture to be rescheduled for later in the season. Tickets for the game will be available from early January via the club website.