Just a week after the Bradford Dragons were beaten in their final game of the regular basketball season at the hands of Worthing Thunder, they were back again at the West Sussex club in the quarter finals of the end of season Playoffs. Second seed Worthing, against the seventh seed Bradford side, made home advantage count, taking a second successive ten point win over the Dragons (83-73) which ended Bradford’s season.
From the tip-off, Worthing immediately put up the first points of the game, a two point driving layup by Andre Arissol. However, through a combination of solid defence and a quick fire offence, the Dragons notched up the next ten to give themselves an early eight point lead (2-10).
But the Worthing response was immediate and less that two minutes later they were up by two, with the Dragons having failed to add to their score (12-10). Jordan Whelan tied the game up for Bradford and then Jabari Edwards layed up to give the Dragons back their lead, but American David Moya followed up with a trey to put the hosts ahead once more (15-14).
The home side pushed further ahead and at the end of the opening quarter they had a five point lead, 24-19.
Into the second period and again Worthing struck first, before Justin Williams and then Micah Savery-Richards (sponsored by Milestone Design Ltd.) clawed the deficit back to three (28-25). But in what was a relatively low scoring quarter for both sides, Thunder ultimately increased their advantage to eleven points (42-31) going into the half time break.
The underdogs had plenty of work to do if they were going to get back into this game, and work was exactly what they put in from the start of the third period. Ricky Fetske sank a two-point layup, followed by a trey from Williams to reduce the deficit to just six points (42-36) in the opening minute of the second half. As the quarter progressed the visitors slowly, but surely, bit away at Worthing’s lead and before the half-way point of the quarter Rihards Sulcs (sponsored by Gio’s Italian Bar and Kitchen) levelled the game (46-46).
Williams then bucketed a two and unbelievably the Dragons held their first lead since the opening quarter (46-48). From there the lead swung from side to side throughout the remainder of the quarter. With Worthing ahead by one and just sixteen seconds remaining of the penultimate period Williams sent Brendan Okoronkwo to the line, where he sank both free shots. Fetske then had the opportunity to tie the game, but he saw his three point attempt bounce agonisingly back off the rim. The quarter ended with the hosts three points ahead (59-56).
Jermayne Laing pulled it back to a one-point ball game, with the first strike of the final quarter. The game remained close and when Laing sank another two pointer, four minutes in, the game was tied at 65-65.
Worthing, however, then upped their game and sank the next nine points unanswered (74-65) and although Bradford continued to fight they could not muster up the strength to get themselves back into contention. The game ended with the home side taking the spoils (83-73) to set themselves up with another home semi-final against the number three seeds, Derby Trailblazers.
Justin Williams was once again the games high scorer contributing 25 points to the Dragons’ total. Williams finishes the season with an average of 24.3 points per game, which currently sees him second in the NBL standings, with Hemel Storms Aaryn Rai currently just one tenth of a point ahead (Storm still have games to play).
Ricky Fetske was the only other Dragon to hit double figures with 16 points, whilst Micah Savery-Richards led all players in rebounds with 10.
For Worthing, Ronald Blain hit a total of 21 points, supported by Andre Arissol (15), David Moya (13) and Orlan Jackman (10).
The other three quarter final fixtures also went in favour of the higher seeds, matching the unbeaten (in all competitions) Hemel Storm against fourth seeds Reading Rockets in the semi-finals.
The management and players at Bradford Dragons would like to say a huge thank you to all their fans for their fantastic support throughout the season. The club now looks forward to a short break before preparation starts for the 2023-24 campaign.