The Dragons went into the game on Saturday on the back of last weekend’s victory against Tees Valley Mohawks, whereas their hosts at the Castle Hill Leisure Centre, in Bury, were hoping to avoid their first three game losing streak of the season. A strong following had made the trip across the Pennines to support Bradford, and at times their enthusiastic backing drowned out the noise from the large home contingent.
First blood went the way of the Dragons, through a Ricky Fetske jump shot and although both teams battled hard, the white side of the Pennines built their lead up to nine points three quarters of the way into the first period. However, the Spinners fought their way back into contention and at the first scheduled break in play the deficit was reduced to two points, with the Dragons ahead 22-24.
The Yorkshire side started the third quarter strongly, building up a quick three-point lead, however that was as good as it gets in a period that has often been the Dragons achilles heel this season. A missed Fetske jump shot was rebounded by the Spinners’ Conner Murtagh and as the ball was played up to the other end big Mike Bernard was there to steal the lead for Lancashire (53-51).
As the rest of the quarter was played out the Spinners, aided by a fantastic shooting display from 36-year-old evergreen, Steven Gayle, took a firm hold on the game, finishing the penultimate period with an eleven-point advantage, 72-61.
The lead was soon increased to fourteen points and it looked as though the game was only going to go one way. However, the Dragons put up a brave fight and with a little under three minutes remaining the gap was back down to five points. However, the Bradford side were in foul trouble, with Fetske already ejected from the game. The final hammer blow came when, with only ninety seconds remaining the inspirational Dwayne Camille went over on his ankle, resulting in him being carried off court by the big man, Bernard.
From there, any hint of a Dragons resurgence was struck dead and the Spinners finished out the remainder of the game with little trouble. Despite Nicholas Moore finishing the game with a two-point jump shot, it was not enough to stop the Lancastrians from taking an 88-82 victory.
It was Moore who headed the Bradford scorers with 22 point, also taking 10 rebounds to record the double-double. Fetske followed close behind with 19 points, whilst Camille also added 11 points to Bradford’s tally.
The following day, the Dragons made the longer journey to face Reading Rockets, at the Rivermead Leisure Centre. The long journey seemed to take its toll on the Bradford team, as despite Fetske putting in the first points of the game, it was pretty much one-way traffic in the opening quarter, which ended with the hosts firmly in control at 25-14.
But it was a different Dragons that took to the court in the second period, and it took less than three minutes for the deficit to be wiped out (27-27). For the rest of the half, both teams cancelled each other out and the teams returned to the locker room with the scores tied at 37 apiece. Of particular note in the first half of the game was Sulcs’ one hundred percent shot conversion, hitting five-from-five field shots and a further four-from-four from the free throw line.
Into the third period and Reading, like many other teams before them, hurt the Dragons hard, building up another ten-point lead with under two minutes of the quarter remaining. However, both Fetske and Sulcs hit two points each, followed by a couple of Jason Swaine free throws to finish the quarter with the Dragons remarkably only four points behind (53-49).
For the first couple of minutes of the final period, it seemed that neither team could make a shot and the Dragons relied on Adrai Rodriguez Vinas to open their fourth quarter account from the free throw line. Despite immediately going six points behind, following a Reading three-pointer, the visitors rallied and, with three minutes on the clock remaining, Fetske put down another two points to regain the lead for Bradford.
However, Reading had more in their tank than the Dragons could muster and, despite Bradford’s best efforts, they could not prevent their hosts from completing the win, 74-68.
Sulcs finished the game with 22 points (8/10, 6/6), whilst Fetske notched up another 18, and Belgium, Henri Bongo added 11 points to the overall total.
Head coach, Chris Mellor commented on the weekends action, saying, “On Saturday, we didn’t get enough stops, at crucial times in the last ten minutes, whilst on Sunday, our defence was better but we went 0-15 from the three-point line which certainly didn’t help our cause.”
The Dragons must now lick their wounds in order to prepare for their final home game of the 2015/16 season, against ex-BBL team Worthing Thunder in the Dragons Den next Saturday (6:15pm). Victory would see the Dragons leapfrog their opponents in the league table, although a spot in the end of season play-offs is now clearly out of reach.
The Dragons are offering all schools in the Bradford area the opportunity to obtain free tickets for all their pupils (under 16’s only) for Saturday's game. Each ticket admits two under 16’s free of charge when accompanied by a paying adult (adult price £5). Schools that are interested in taking up this offer should contact firstname.lastname@example.org, before Thursday evening, to claim their free tickets.