Bradford Dragons faced a double-header of games last weekend, with a visit to Derby Trailblazers on Saturday evening, followed by a home fixture against Essex Rebels on Sunday afternoon. Having led at the end of each of the first three quarters in Derby, the Dragons eventually went down 97-85 against the Trailblazers, but bounced back with a big 36-point win (102-66) against the Rebels.
The visit to third placed side Derby Trailblazers was the third meeting between the two sides this season, with Saturday’s hosts having taken the spoils in both of the prior contests; a 91-66 home victory in the pool stages of the KitKing Trophy in September, followed by a closely fought 85-87 scoreline in the Dragons’ Den in December.
The Dragons opened the scoring from the foul line, with Jacques Misambu hitting one of his two shots, following a foul by Derby’s Charlie Brown. The two sides traded baskets for the next few minutes, before Derby took hold of proceedings and built a seven-point (16-9) lead with just over seven minutes played.
But the Dragons were in no mood to keel over and not only clawed back the deficit, but took a two point lead of their own (20-22) through Justin Williams just before the buzzer signalled the end of the first quarter.
Rihards Sulcs (sponsored by Gio’s Italian Bar and Kitchen) doubled the lead within seconds of the restart and then Jordan Whelan made it a six point advantage with his driving layup. And despite the hosts best efforts to close the gap, the Dragons matched them throughout the second period, which ended with Chris Mellor’s side taking a six point lead back to the locker rooms at half time (44-50).
After the break, Micah Savery-Richards (sponsored by Milestone Design Ltd.) layed-up to give the Dragons their biggest lead of the game. But the Trailblazers slowly fought their way back into the contest and three by the end of the penultimate quarter the Dragons’ lead was down to a single point (67-68).
Whelan sank a three at the start of that final passage of play to restore a two score advantage, and the two sides tussled for the opening minutes of the quarter. But the game turned when Whelan picked up his fifth foul of the game, consigning him to the bench for the final six and a half minutes.
It was over three minutes before the Dragons were to add to their tally, by which time the Trailblazers had stormed ahead into an eleven-point lead. Despite Williams stopping the drought with two points from the line but it wasn’t long before Derby had pulled further ahead to seventeen (94-77). Williams did his best to close the gap, bringing it down to twelve points and the game ended with a trey for either side seeing the hosts take the win (97-85).
Justin Williams top scored for Bradford with a game-high thirty-four points, supported by Micah Savery-Richards with 15 points and Jordan Whelan with 14 points.
The following afternoon, the Essex Rebels entered the Dragons Den in what was Bradford’s final home game of the regular season. The two sides last met just two weeks prior when the Dragons had romped home with a 38 point victory (60-98) at the University of Essex Arena in Colchester.
Rihards Sulcs opened the scoring with a two point lay-up but then a trey from Owen Chose put the Rebels ahead. Jermayne Laing responded with a two but then Jake Eynon restored the visitor’s lead (4-5). However, any sense that Essex were going to provide stiffer competition for the Dragons this time around was short lived and the hosts quickly took full control of proceedings, finishing the opening quarter with a thirteen point advantage (30-17).
The advantage was doubled in the second quarter, with Bradford heading back to the locker rooms with a commanding lead (60-34).
It didn’t get any better for the Rebels after the break with Dragons adding a further twelve points to their advantage in the third quarter (85-47).
With the game all but won, the Dragons eased off in the final quarter allowing their guests to cut the gap, albeit only by two. The Dragons finished the game with another big win against the Essex side (102-66).
Once again Justin Williams hit the game high score, this time with a mere 25 points, but the Player of the Game Award went to Jabari Edwards who put in an impressive shift with 22 points, 5 rebounds, 7 assists and 2 steals. Rihards Sulcs and Jordan Whelan scored 1 points apiece, whilst Jacques Misambu also hit double figures with 12 points towards the Dragons total.
The Dragons next travel to the North East for a crucial showdown against Team Newcastle University, knowing that victory will almost certainly secure their qualification for the end of season playoffs, whilst a loss could just as easily see them miss out. The fixture takes place on Sunday afternoon, with a three o’clock tip-off.