During a busy weekend of basketball fixtures the Bradford Dragons suffered two defeats, starting with a home league loss to Derby Trailblazers on Saturday evening (80-96), and then ejection from the National Cup at Newcastle University on Sunday afternoon (78-71).
The Trailblazers are one of the early season frontrunners in the National Basketball League with six wins and two defeats heading into the weekend. The two sides had previously faced up in the pool stages of the KitKing Trophy, with Derby taking the win (93-76) on their home court. Since then, both sides have progressed to the final of the Trophy, with that game due to be played in March of next year.
On Saturday, in the Dragons’ Den, Bradford come out roaring, putting the first points on the board straight from the tip-off, a two-point driving layup by Micah Savery-Richards (sponsored by Milestone Design Ltd.). In a dominant opening quarter, the Dragons established a six point lead (31-25).
That lead was maintained and even extended to eight points (43-35) by the mid-point of the second period. But then an eight point unanswered run by the Trailblazers levelled the scores, which were still level as the teams headed back to their locker rooms at half time (50-50).
After the break, Derby quickly built up a six point lead, but the Dragons were determined not to let the game get away from them. It took until the eighth minute of the quarter, but a two-point jump shot from Justin Williams (sponsored by the Ireland Family) finally brought the scores back level (65-65) and at the end of that penultimate period only a final trey from Derby’s Jase Harrison, separated the two sides (69-72).
It had been a strong performance by the Dragons to that point, matching Derby across all areas of the court. However, into the final quarter it was clear that the home side were beginning to tire, with the Trailblazers restricting them to just eleven points in the quarter, whilst they build up a sixteen point lead to finish the game at 80-96.
Jordan Whelan (sponsored by Napoleons Casino & Restaurant, Bradford) top scored for the Dragons with a game high 23 points, but it was Rihards Šulcs (sponsored by Gio’s Italian Bar & Kitchen) who picked up the Calderdale College Player of the Game Award, netting 19 points and 11 rebounds to record a double-double. Justin Williams contributed 14 points towards the Dragons tally, whilst Zion Tordoff (sponsored by Bubbles & Barks Dog Grooming) also recorded a double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds.
The following day, the Dragons travelled to the North East for their National Cup fifth round fixture against Newcastle University, who had beaten the Dragons just two weeks earlier in a league fixture in the Dragons Den.
This time, in Newcastle, the game was all square at the end of the opening quarter (23-23) and with both sides evenly balanced the two were separated by a mere three points going into the half (37-34).
In the third quarter Newcastle stretched their lead to ten points (58-48) and whilst the Dragons took the final quarter it wasn’t enough to close the gap and stop Newcastle from progressing to the quarter finals (78-71).
Justin Williams topped the Bradford scorers with 21 points, followed by Jordon Whelan on 14 points. Also in double figures was Joe Buchanan (sponsored by Meryl Valentine) who contributed 12 points.
This weekend, the Dragons entertain the leagues bottom side, Barking Abbey, in their last fixture before the short Christmas Break. Barking have lost all nine of their league fixtures so far this season and will be desperate to end 2023 on a high, whilst the Dragons will feel that this is a game they should comfortably win. But, as has been shown many times in the past, there are never any givens in the game of Basketball.
Tickets for the fixture, which tips off at 6:15pm on Saturday, are available from the club website, with a BOGOF offer available until 11pm on Friday. Fans are also encouraged to wear their Christmas jumpers and headwear for the game as the club look to finish off the 2023 season in festive style.
Photographs © Alex Daniel Photography
More of Alex’s photos from this game can be found at ALEX DANIEL PHOTOGRAPHY | Bradford Dragons v Derby Trailblazers 9dec23 (alexdanielphotos.co.uk)