Both Bradford and Westminster entered the Dragons Den on Saturday hungry for their first wins of the National Basketball League Division One season, although for much of the game it appeared that the visitor’ had the bigger appetite, with the Dragons leaving it until the dessert course to pull off their pièce de résistance.
Both teams showed their nerves in the opening minutes of the game, with a succession of turnovers from both sides. But, despite the home side opening the scoring, the Warriors soon stamped their authority on the game and finished the first quarter with a three-point buzzer beater, giving them a five-point lead, 27-32, going into the first break.
The Dragons pulled the scores back to within two points, at the mid-point of the second period, although the visitors soon pulled away again and at the sound of the half time buzzer they had stretched their lead to nine points, 47-56.
The Warriors managed keep their noses ahead throughout the first half of the final quarter. But with little more than three minutes of the game remaining, the home side finally managed to get ahead for the first time since the opening minute of the game.
But the deciding action was saved for the final fifteen seconds of the game. With the Dragons holding a three-point lead, the Warriors stepped up to the free throw line for two shots, sinking both to pull the difference back to a single point. However, as the second shot went in, as stray elbow knocked Dragons’ Nicholas Moore to the ground and the referee called an unsportsmanlike foul and two shots at the other end of the court.
Moore hit the first, but then, seeing his second shot bounce out off the rim, he followed up and took his own rebound, not only sinking the follow up for another two points but also drawing a further foul to add the extra point and put the game out of reach of Westminster, who had fought hard right to the very end. The game finished with the Dragons taking the spoils, 97-91, much to the relief of head coach Chris Mellor and the home support.
Moore scored an impressive 35 points for Bradford, whilst Henri Bongoma added 21 and Jason Swain 16. Ricky Fetske completed a personal double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds.
On Sunday, the Dragons travelled to Middlesbrough’s Sports Village, where they had already beaten Tees Valley Mohawks in the National Trophy, in September.
Bradford got off to an absolute flyer, scoring an unanswered eighteen points at the start of the game and finishing the first quarter with a comfortable lead at 13-27, which they stretched to 32-49 by half time.
Despite the Mohawks pulling the scores back to within 3 points, going into the final few minutes of the game, the Dragons had enough in their tank and knocked down some tough shots, to take a second victory of the weekend, and of the season, at 80-88.
Moore once again topped the scorers for the Dragons, with 29 points, this time followed by Fetske on 16 points and Bongoma with 13.
Reflecting on the weekends action, Bradford’s head coach, Chris Mellor said, “We didn’t play great in either game this weekend but we just needed to get a couple of wins on the board to get our season underway. This should give us some confidence moving forward and hopefully another couple of weeks should see us nearly at full strength fitness wise, apart from Rihards (Sulcs).”
The Dragons, who have now moved up four places in the table, to tenth position, face another tough game next weekend as Lancashire Spinners visit the Dragons Den next Saturday. The Spinners beat Bradford by 3 points when the teams met in the National Trophy, in October and the Dragons will be looking to extract their revenge this time around. Tip-off at the Dragons’ Den is at 6:15pm.
Dragons under 16’s hosted Leeds Force at Buttershaw Business and Enterprise College on Saturday, welcoming back their former coach, Tamas Okros, who is now heading up Leeds’ youth development programme. Unfortunately, the Dragons came away on the wrong side of a 73-99 score line. Earlier, the under 14’s hosted Newcastle Eagles, also at Buttershaw, taking an impressive 69-54 victory.
Meanwhile, the under 18’s faced a home fixture, in the Dragons Den, against Sheffield Junior Sharks II, on Sunday, coming away with a four-point victory, 59-55.
All photographs © ALEX DANIEL PHOTOGRAPHY