Notice – There is no U12 on Saturday 6th May

Dragons’ News

Dragons split the weekend but secure end of season playoffs.

March 27, 2024

Bradford Dragons faced a busy doubleheader weekend with games at Barking Abbey on Saturday and Nottingham Hoods on Sunday. In two closely contested games the Dragons came out on top against Barking (79-85) but fell just short the following day in Nottingham (80-78).

Barking Abbey, despite running many of the division’s top sides close this season, have occupied the bottom spot in the table throughout the campaign. The reverse fixture, in the Dragon’s Den last December, had resulted in a fifteen point win for the Dragons (96-81), spearheaded by a twenty-seven-point tally for Justin Williams. In fact, it wasn’t until the end of January that Barking picked up their first win of the season, a narrow four-point margin (78-82) at City of Birmingham Rockets. The side then romped to a fourteen-point victory (100-86) in their next game, at home against Nottingham Hoods. However, with only one more win under their belt, another four-pointer against Worthing Thunder (101-97) the team remain rooted to the bottom of the standings. Already relegated and with nothing but pride remaining to play for, they are in a battle with London Elite, who are also on just three wins, to avoid the unenviable bottom spot.

It was Bradford that got off to a flying start, building up an unanswered eight point lead in the first three minutes of play. Barking then put up their first two points of the game, a layup by Harry Gent, but the momentum was still in the Dragons’ favour. When Ronald Blain (sponsored by Bliss Bakery Bakes and Positive Outcome Associates) bucketed a layup, just past the halfway point of the opening quarter, Bradford’s lead was up to twelve points (2-14).

Slowly, Barking started to fight their way back into the game and when the buzzer sounded for the end of the period the gap was back down to single figures (17-26).

Into the second quarter, and the home side came out fighting, gradually chipping away at Bradford’s lead. And just as the period hit its halfway point Mekhi Hendry sank a layup to level the game at thirty-three apiece. Shortly afterwards, Kervy Mabaya gave the hosts their first lead of the game, with another two-point layup. Jabari Edwards (sponsored by KW Basketball) then hit a three to restore the Dragons’ lead but there was no stopping the home side at this point. When the sides returned to their respective locker rooms at half time, it was Barking that now held a seven-point advantage (45-38).

After the interval, the two sides battled basket for basket. The Dragons slowly ate into the home team’s lead but it wasn’t until the ninth minute of the period that they finally got themselves back in front, thanks to a Jordan Whelan (sponsored by Napoleon’s Casino & Restaurant, Bradford) trey. The Bradford guard then followed this up with another of the same, to send Bradford into the final quarter with a slim four point lead (57-61).

In the opening minutes of the final period, the Dragons opened their advantage up to ten points (59-69). But remarkably, with only three minutes remaining the scores were back to within a single point (77-78) and it seemed as though momentum was with Barking. However, Bradford kept their cool and further scores by Whelan, Blain and Zion Tordoff (sponsored by Bubbles and Barks Dog Grooming) secured the win (79-85), whilst also confirming the Dragons’ participation in the end of season playoffs.

Ronald Blain registered a game high 27 points for the Dragons, with Jordan Whelan following on 14 points and Joe Buchanan (sponsored by Meryl Valentine) close behind on 12 points. Zion Tordoff hit what has become a customary double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds.

The following afternoon, the Dragons travelled to the Wildcats Arena in Nottingham to face the Hoods. The last time that the sides met, back in October, Bradford took the victory by a narrow four point margin (86-82) in front of their home crowd.

Returning to the court that served as Bradford’s surrogate home during the Covid crisis, Sunday’s fixture was one that you couldn’t take your eyes off throughout, with no more than six points separating the two sides at any point.

Bradford drew first blood, but the two sides traded baskets throughout the opening quarter. There was only a single point to separate the sides at the first break, with Bradford holding the slightest of leads (25-26).

Ricky Fetske (sponsored by Vision Properties) layed-up early in the second quarter to extend the lead to three. This was then copied moments later by Blain, to give Bradford their largest lead of the game (25-30). The Dragons held the advantage right up to the seventh minute of the quarter, before a Landon Taliaferro trey finally put the Hoods ahead. The two sides continued to spar with one another, but in the final minute of the first half, it was the home team’s turn to take their largest lead of the game (45-39). A two-pointer from Rihards Sulcs (sponsored by Gio’s Italian Bar and Kitchen) pulled the gap back to four (45-41), before the buzzer registered the half time break.

Two early lay-ups by Tordoff pulled the scores back square at the start of the penultimate period and the two sides continued to grapple with one another. With a minute remaining in the period the scores were level at sixties, but scores from Blain and Whelan sent the Dragons into the final break with a four point advantage (60-64).

At the midpoint of the final quarter the scores were level again at seventy-four points each and the two sides continued to match one another basket for basket. With only seventy-five seconds remaining on the clock, Joshua Guddemi sank a lay-up to put the home side ahead by two points. The final minute of play then saw a succession of steals and turnovers, along with timeouts called by both coaches. But with only three seconds to go, Albert Margai had the opportunity to steal the game for Bradford, but he saw his three-point attempt blocked by Johde Campbell as the result went in the host’s favour (80-78).

Importantly, with Nottingham winning by just two points, Bradford hold the overall head-to-head between the two sides, meaning that even if Nottingham manage to equal the Dragons’ league points tally (currently four points behind with two games remaining), they cannot overhaul them in the standings.

Zion Tordoff was the outstanding player for the Dragons with 25 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists. Ronald Blain added a further 19 points, whilst Jordan Whelan (12 points) and Rihards Sulcs (10 points) also contributed double figures.

This coming Sunday, the Dragons face their penultimate fixture of the regular season, at  Loughborough Riders. With the two sides battling for the sixth and seventh seeds in league standings both will be desperate for the win. Although Bradford are currently in sixth, Loughborough hold the advantage with a game in hand and what looks like the easier run-in to the end of the season. Bradford would need a six point win to gain the head to head against Loughborough, along with other results going in their favour. Tip-off at the Loughborough University Netball and Badminton Centre is at 6pm.

Photographs © Graham Hodges and Rico Mariano

Share this post-

Game day Gallery