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Dragons Hush the Thunder with Overtime Win!

December 6, 2023

Bradford Dragons took the long road trip down to the South Coast on Saturday, to face Worthing Thunder in Division One of the National Basketball League. In a seesaw game, the scores were tied at the end of normal play and despite going six points down in overtime, the Dragons roared back to take the win, 81-85.

Results to date have not been as expected from either of these two sides, so far this season, sitting in ninth (Bradford) and tenth (Worthing) in the league table, with both sides having picked up only two league each. However, with Worthing having played one game less than the Dragons, a home win would give them a clear advantage over their guests for the evening.

Jake Eynon, opened the scoring with an early trey for the Thunder, in front of a packed crowd in the Thunderdome (Worthing Leisure Centre). The sides traded baskets for the opening couple of minutes, but by the halfway point of the first quarter Worthing had pulled ahead by nine (16-7). And at the first scheduled buzzer, Bradford had only managed to reduce the gap to seven points (20-13), thanks to a last second layup by Jabari Edwards (sponsored by KW Basketball).

The second period of play was a completely different story.  Joe Buchanan (sponsored by Meryl Valentine) started things off with a three, which was quickly cancelled out at the other end by another Enyon trey. Hafeez Abdul added another point for the home side, from the line, with just under 2 minutes of the quarter played to give the home side an eight point advantage (24-16), much to the delight of the home crowd.

However, through a combination of solid defence from Chris Mellor’s side and poor offensive play from their hosts, Thunder failed to add to their score until six seconds before half time, by which time the Dragons had established a ten point lead of their own. Tola Okiki’s driving layup for Worthing pulled that back down to eight points, but having restricted the Thunder to a mere six points in the second quarter, the Dragons went into the locker rooms the happier (26-34).

After the break, Zion Tordoff (sponsored by Bubbles & Barks Dog Grooming) restored the ten point advantage but slowly and surely the Thunder clawed their way back into the game. As the buzzer registered the end of the penultimate quarter, the fixture was finely balanced with Bradford clinging on to a single point lead (51-52).

Abdul opened the scoring in the final period to put the hosts ahead, sending the home crowd into a state of euphoria. But that was quickly cancelled out by an Edwards trey which gave the Dragons a two point lead. However, the momentum at this point was very much with the Thunder, who netted the next eleven points, and going ahead by nine (64-55) with little over four minutes of the quarter played.

The Dragons are no strangers to clawing themselves back into games and they gradually set about eroding the home side’s advantage. Baskets from Jordan Whelan (sponsored by Napoleon’s Restaurant and Casino, Bradford), Tordoff, Rihards Sulcs (sponsored by Gio’s Italian Bar and Kitchen) and Buchanan brought them back within a point, with just a minute of play remaining.

Worthing player-coach, Zaire Taylor then sank a two pointer leaving the Dragons three points adrift with only thirty seconds on the clock. Up stepped Joe Buchanan with a long range trey to level the scores (73-73). There was still time for one more Worthing offence, but this time Taylor saw his jump shot rebound out to the sound of the buzzer and the game was set for overtime.

Worthing’s Tom Ward gave his side a six point lead, with a couple of three pointers in the opening minute of the additional period. Whelan then responded with a trey of his own and Tordoff followed that with a two to leave the Dragons a single point down (79-78) at the midpoint of the period. Okiki then missed his layup at the other end of the court with Bradford picking up the rebound and sending the ball to Buchanan. As he rose to take a three point shot he was fouled by Okiki, sending him to the line for three shots. Buchanan sank all three to give the Dragons a two point lead, but then Okiki made amends by levelling the scores once more, fouled by Sulcs whilst doing so. Unlike Buchanan though, Okiki missed his extra shot from the line.

Worthing picked up the offensive rebound, but as the ball came back to Okiki he was called for travelling. Edwards then missed a three, with Okiki taking the rebound but his bad pass handed possession back to the Dragons. Buchanan then missed with a three point attempt, but claimed his own rebound and laid the ball off to Whelan, who was fouled by Okiki.  Whelan went to line to shoot two and again sank them both.

With only six seconds remaining Whelan was fouled again, once more by Okiki and the Dragons Guard made no mistake from the line, to put the game beyond Worthing’s reach. As the final buzzer sounded, Bradford took a four point win, 81-85.

Jordan Whelan topped the Bradford scorers with 19 points although, once again, it was Zion Tordoff who led the line for Bradford with 17 points and 14 rebounds, recording what is becoming a customary double-double for the Bradford born forward.  Rihards Sulcs and Joe Buchanan both added 16 points apiece towards the winning tally.

The game high score went to Worthing’s captain, Hafeez Abdul who netted an impressive 36 points for the host side. Tom Ward and Tola Okiki were both in double figures with 10 points each.

Bradford’s attention now moves on to a double header this coming weekend. On Saturday, the Derby Trailblazers enter the Dragons’ Den for another NBL1 fixture. Derby currently sit second in the league and will prove a tough opponent for Bradford, but with the sides set to meet again in the KitKing Trophy Final both teams will be keen to put their marker down.

The game on Saturday tips off at 6:15pm, at Calderdale College’s Inspire Centre and tickets are available to purchase online via the clubs website. All online purchases made before 11pm on Friday qualify for a Buy One Get One Free offer.

The following day, the Dragons travel to Newcastle University for a National Cup fifth round fixture, with Bradford looking to avenge their home defeat against Newcastle two weeks ago.

Photography © Graham Hodges.

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