by Tom Lamming (Student Press Officer)
Bradford Dragons succumbed to a 97-85 road defeat against the 14-1 Thames Valley Cavaliers in NBL Division One.
The Dragons went blow-for-blow with the hosts in the first half as Great Osobor erupted for 25 points, but a lacklustre third quarter allowed the Cavaliers to take control of proceedings.
An undermanned Dragons drop to 6-10 on the season, despite 33 points from Great Osobor.
After ending the Solent Kestrels two-year unbeaten league run last weekend, the Cavaliers came into Saturday evening’s clash with nine straight league victories to their name.
And it looked ominous for Dragons early in the game as the Cavaliers opened up a 20-8 lead halfway through the opening period.
League MVP candidate Taylor Johnson scored eight quick points on 3-3 shooting as the hosts knocked down four early threes.
Walsh made an instant impact off the bench, with six quick points in an 11-4 run that cut the host’s lead to 28-23.
The Cavaliers closed the quarter with five straight points to lead the Dragons 33-23.
The young tandem continued where they left off in the opening period, both knocking down threes in the first 30 seconds of the second quarter.
Bernard Hehetro extended the host’s lead to 39-29, with 7:10 left in the half, but then Coach Mellor’s team produced a dominant stretch of basketball.
Firstly, ten straight points pulled the Dragons level (39-39) as Uche Umekwe and Osobor began to take control of the game in the paint.
Then former Dragon junior Osobor single-handedly took over proceedings as he tore apart the Cavaliers defence.
Eight straight points from the 18-year-old ensured a Dragons team without two of their top three scorers stayed afloat against the red-hot hosts.
Scoring in a variety of ways, Osobor poured in 17-second quarter points as the Dragons went into halftime tied at 49.
After giving up 31 points in the opening period, the Dragons tightened up defensively in the second quarter, holding the Cavaliers to just 16 points in the period.
Out of halftime, Dragons knew a strong start to the third quarter was essential if they were to take maximum points back to Yorkshire, and they got just that through the impressive Walsh.
Elijah Walsh scored nine of the Dragons first 11 points in the half, propelling the visitors into a game-high six-point lead (58-52).
But then came the fightback, as the Cavaliers rattled off eight straight points, with the dangerous Hakeem Sylla banking in two layups.
Tyme Regent-Bascombe stopped the bleeding with a mid-range jumper to tie the game at 60, but an 11-2 run soon opened up a 71-62 lead for the hosts.
Spurred by some lockdown defence from the leaders, the Dragons were struggling to break down the new looks the Cavaliers were throwing their way, and the hosts took thorough advantage.
Then the game quickly got away from Dragons as nine straight points to end the quarter from Johnson allowed the Cavaliers to build up an 80-65 lead.
Despite outscoring the hosts 20-17 in the fourth quarter, the Dragons failed to cut the deficit to single digits as the Cavaliers led by as many as 21.
Osobor added eight fourth quarter points to complete a monster game, but the eight-man Dragons rotation came up short down the stretch.
All five starters scored in double figures for the hosts as they outlasted a plucky Dragons performance.
The Final Score, Thames Valley Cavaliers 97-85 Bradford Dragons. The Dragons remain without a road victory in 2021, but despite the absence of key personnel, Coach Mellor’s team battled hard on the road.
Great Osobor led all-scorers with 33 points, 13 rebounds, and 2 steals in a sensational all-around performance from the youngster.
Elijah Walsh scored 17 points, with Uche Umekwe adding 15 points and 8 rebounds off the bench.
Box Score: https://www.fibalivestats.com/u/BBE/1774168/bs.html#ASFSK
Coach Mellor bemoaned his team’s difficult third quarter, he said:
“The game just got away from us with five minutes left in the third quarter, and that was the decisive run in the game.”
Photos © Alex Daniel Photography