Nottingham Hoods entered the Dragons’ Den on Saturday evening, in what was Bradford’s final fixture before the Christmas break. In a tightly fought encounter the home side finished strongly to take the win (82-71) to leapfrog the Hoods in the National Basketball League Division One table.
Coming into the game, the Dragons sat one position and two points below their opponents, who had also played one game more and Chris Mellor’s side knew that a victory would see them move ahead in the rankings.
With team captain, Ricky Fetske, missing through injury Micah Savery-Richards (sponsored by Milestone Design Ltd., the UKs first producer of totally green Kitchens of Recycled Content) stepped in for the jump ball at the start of the game. The Bradford number eight rose to win the ball, sending Jordan Whelan towards the basket, but he saw his layup attempt bounce back off the rim. Avery Close picked up the rebound for the visitors and down the other end of the court Seth Hall missed his attempt for a three-pointer. Close, however, was on hand again to pick up the offensive rebound and he made no mistake with the push back, to register the first points of the game.
Bradford failed to convert from any of their first six assaults at the basket, by which time the Hoods had built up a six-point lead. With over three minutes of the game played, the Dragons finally got themselves on the board with a three from Whelan (3-6).
The two sides then matched one another, almost point for point, with the lead swinging from side to side. With 15 seconds of the opening period remaining, Nester Saa sank a two for Nottingham, to restore a slim one point lead, but then another Whelan three, right on the buzzer, ensured Dragons closed the first quarter ahead (21-19).
Hoods took first blood in the second, a trey from Hall putting them back ahead. Ethan Rose then tied the game from the Free throw line, before Jacques Misambu then put Bradford two up, again from the foul line.
Saa responded with another trey and again there was little to split the two sides. Bradford managed to put together a mini-run and at the halfway point of the quarter they led by five (37-32). But even then, it was short lived as their guests clawed themselves back into it and within a couple of minutes they again held the lead, following a two from Josh Guddemi (37-38).
Again the two sides exchanged the lead between them, but the final score of the quarter was from the foul line, with Moyo Adekeye making no mistake and sending the Hoods back to the locker rooms with the slimmest of advantages (41-42).
The Dragons notched the first points after the break, Savery-Richards bucketing his layup. But then, the Hoods pulled away with scores from Hall, Close and Geddemi (43-49).
Rihards Šulcs (sponsored by Gio’s Italian Bar and Kitchen, Hipperholme) broke the opposition’s run with a lay-up, also drawing a foul to go to the line for an extra one. Savery Richards then brought the game back within one, before Theo Riley dunked to pull the Hoods clear again (48-51).
Slowly, but surely, the Dragons pulled their way back into the game but with just over three minutes of the penultimate period to play, they still trailed by three. Layups from Jabari Edwards (x2) and Misambu flipped the game and Dragons now led by three (57-54). Ethan Rose followed suit with a couple of layups, one either side of A Jorde Campbell two for Nottingham. Another try from Whelan, once again on the buzzer ensured that the Dragons had the biggest lead of the game so far, going into the final period (64-56).
With Bradford now in the ascendancy, Williams hit a trey followed by twos from Edwards and Whelan. A technical foul was then called on Nottingham’s Eddy Brownell, sending Williams to the line for a single, and suddenly the Dragons’ lead was up to sixteen points (72-56).
Close and Guddemi pulled the game back to twelve points, before Chris Mellor called a timeout. Before the game could restart, Nottingham’s head coach, Dan Watts, entered into a heated discussion with one of the officials and another technical foul was called, with Williams converting from the line (73-60).
Šulcs added a further two pointer before Guddemi hit a three and then followed up with a Dunk to give the visitors a lifeline. However, a layup from Walsh, followed by a Dave Walsh trey, put the game out of Nottingham’s reach.
With less than two minutes remaining, Coach Mellor took the opportunity to give some time to Camron Simpson (sponsored by Asley Ajay Simpson, USA), who was celebrating his 16th Birthday.
Williams converted two from the foul line to increase the difference to seventeen, but that was to be the Dragons’ final contribution, whilst Isaac Thorpe and Sam Williams both hit threes to finish the game. The Dragons took the win by eleven points (82-71).
The game’s high scorer was Jordan Whelan, who contributed 29 points for the Dragons, supported by Justin Williams on 15 points. Captain for the night, Rihards Šulcs took a total of 13 rebounds, 11 of which were at the defensive end.
Guddemi topped the list for the Hoods, with 18 points, and Avery Close added a further 14 points whilst also taking 10 rebounds to record a double-double. Also with a double-double was Seth Hall with 10 points and 12 rebounds.
The Dragons move into fifth position in the league table, whilst Nottingham, drop down to seventh.
The season resumes on Saturday January 7, when the Dragons will once again be at home, this time to Worthing Thunder who went nine games unbeaten at the start of the season but have since lost their last two.
Tickets for the game will be available to purchase online from 27 December via the clubs website. The club would remind supporters that they can save money by booking online, compared to the on-the-door prices on game night.
Photographs © Alex Daniel Photography