Bradford Dragons hosted Nottingham Hoods in the Dragons’ Den on Saturday evening and, despite going behind by seventeen points in the second quarter, they fought back to claim their first league win of the season (86-82).
Bradford had previously failed to claim a victory in any of their first three games of the league campaign, although all three fixtures had been closely battled. In contrast the Hoods were unbeaten, albeit having played one game fewer, and sat second in the table on points difference (+40).
It was the visiting side that had the first strike at the basket, but Johde Campbell’s layup attempt was unsuccessful. Rihards Sulcs (sponsored by Gio’s Italian Bar and Kitchen) took the rebound and, on the Dragons’ first offence, Justin Williams (sponsored by the Ireland Family) sank his first trey of the game.
Back down the other end, Joshua Guddemi saw his three point attempt bounce back off the rim. This time it was Zion Tordoff (sponsored by Bubbles & Barks Dog Grooming) that collected the loose ball and passed to Williams, who took the ball the full length of the court, weaving his way through Nottingham’s defence, to lay up for another two points (5-0).
With less than four minutes played the Dragons were six points up (10-4), Williams having scored all ten points for the home side. But that was as good as their lead was to get, as the Hoods found their rhythm. Successive treys from American guard, Landon Taliaferro gave them their first lead of the game (12-14) and although Bradford’s Joe Buchanan (sponsored by Meryl Valentine) responded with a three pointer of his own, that was quickly nullified by Kivuvu Live, who restored the visitor’s lead (15-16) a lead which they maintained for the rest of the quarter, which finished at 19-21.
Greg Skoric and Taliaferro extended Nottingham’s lead at the start of the second quarter and, despite Buchanan responding with two points for the hosts (21-25), the Hoods were in full control of proceedings. With just over three minutes of the period gone, their lead had been extended to a commanding sixteen points with Bradford having failed to add to their tally (21-37).
It was Micah Savery-Richards (sponsored by Milestone Design Limited) that finally broke the drought for the Dragons, adding two points from the foul line. However, Taliaferro then added another trey to give the Hoods their biggest lead of the game (23-40).
The home side finally woke up for the final three minutes of the quarter, and by the time the hooter sounded for half time they had managed to reduce the deficit to twelve points (37-49).
After the interval, it was the Hoods that took first blood, a two point jump shot by Taliaferro. Sulcs negated this with a layup and then the two sides sparred with one another almost shot for shot. Despite Bradford managing to reduce the difference between the sides to just nine points (48-57), this was quickly pushed back out to thirteen points following layups by Guddemi and Latrell Maitland (48-61) just after the midpoint of the third quarter.
With four minutes of the quarter to play, Williams was fouled and sent to the line for two shots, successfully making both of them. Sulcs then made a two point layup, and added the plus one from the line having been fouled by Skoric. Williams then hit two treys, which was then followed by a dunk from Tordoff. All of this went unanswered by the opposition, and now with two-and-a-half minutes remaining of the penultimate period, the scores were unbelievably tied at sixty-one apiece.
Sulcs then went to the line to shoot two. He missed the first but bucketed his second to give the Dragons a single point advantage, their first lead since the first quarter. But the Hoods were not finished yet and it was they that made the next three scores. Savery-Richards then finished the period with a lay-up (64-68).
With the Dragons now only four points down, the game was finely balanced going into the final ten minutes of play. Bradford struck first, with Sulcs sinking a two-point layup. This was followed by another two points from Williams, who converted it to three from the line, following a foul by Diogo Soares, giving the hosts a single point lead (69-68).
Skoric responded with a two plus one for Nottingham but another Buchanan trey quickly restored the Dragons slim advantage. The two teams matched each other almost shot for shot throughout the rest of the game, and with only thirty seconds of the game remaining there was just three points between the two sides, with Bradford being in pole position.
Then Taliaferro fouled Savery-Richards and he sank his first attempt from the line to leave the Hoods needing two scores in the final twelve seconds (86-82). The Dragon then missed his second free-throw, Skoric took the rebound and released the Ball to Campbell who shot from distance but saw his three point attempt rebound out of play.
It was Bradfords possession with six seconds remaining, and in a last attempt to plot a final comeback Nottingham’s head Coach, Dan Watts, called a timeout. The players returned to the court, but before the ball could be put back into play, it was then Chris Mellor’s turn to call another time-out, giving his side the advantage of moving their restart into their offensive half.
With time running out, all the Dragons needed to do was keep hold of the ball until the buzzer sounded to register their first win of the season.
Just as in the previous three fixtures, Justin Williams topped the score charts for the Dragons, recording a game high 31 points. Joe Buchanan contributed 18 points to the winning total, with Micah Savery-Richards and Rihards Sulcs adding 13 points and 12 points respectively. But the Player of the Game Award went to Zion Tordoff who recorded 10 points, 14 rebounds, 3 assists and 5 steals.
For the Hoods, Taliaferro hit 25 points, whilst Campbell (16 points), Skoric (15 points) and Guddemi (14 points) were all in double figures.
This weekend the Dragons face a home doubleheader weekend at Calderdale College’s Inspire Centre. On Saturday the Essex Rebels enter the Den for another NBL Division One fixture (tip off 6:15pm). This is then followed on Sunday by the KitKing Trophy Semi-Final, in which the Dragons entertain last season’s Trophy winners Hemel-Storm (tip off 4:15pm).
Tickets for both fixtures can be booked at www.bradforddragons.co.uk/tickets. Early bird discounts are available for both games and anybody booking tickets to the Essex fixture will then receive an email with a discount code, giving them an additional 50% discount on the ticket price for Sunday’s semi-final. This discount can not be applied retrospectively, so supporters are advised to wait for receipt of the email, after booking the Essex game, before booking tickets for the second fixture.
Photographs © Max Lomas Photography