On Saturday, down 51-33 at halftime after taking a haymaker in the second quarter, Dragons looked to be heading to another abject defeat.
Then out of the break, the Dragons produced their best half of the season to deservingly climb all the way back and claim a memorable home victory.
Dragons snapped a four-game losing streak on the back of a dominant 30-11 fourth quarter performance to stun the visitors.
Travelling to familiar surroundings, the Trailblazers came into the game in good form, having won six of their last eight league games and they looked every bit like that team in the first half.
Both teams were getting the paint looks they wanted in the opening quarter, but it was the visitors who gained the early ascendency, leading 25-21 courtesy of 22 paint points at the end of the quarter.
Then came a disastrous stretch of basketball for Dragons as the visitors opened up the second quarter with nine straight points to extend their lead to 34-21.
Dragons were struggling to generate anything on the offensive end, and the Trailblazers thoroughly took advantage. An offensive barrage saw the visitors outscore Dragons 28-10 in the period.
Heading into the break, Dragons trailed 51-33 after a less than impressive first half display.
Coming out of halftime, the Trailblazers started where they left off in the first half, stringing together 11 straight points to extend their lead to 63-31.
Down 32, most teams would have just played for pride and moved onto the next game, but not this Dragons team.
Šulcs and Laing combined to score the next nine points for Dragons, cutting the lead to 63-38.
Malcolm Smith responded for the visitors, but then a Dave Walsh inspired 12-4 run further reduced the deficit to 69-50.
After a lethargic first half, the Dragons finally sprang into action on the defensive end, and the energy of Walsh, Andreas Lycoudis, and Edvarts Gutmanis provided a huge spark for the whole team.
Despite a resurgent third quarter performance, Dragons still trailed 77-60 heading into the final quarter.
Then arrived the Dragons best quarter of the season, but it wasn’t all plain sailing in the final period.
Blake Bowman scored four straight points to open the quarter, increasing Derby’s lead to 81-60.
However, the Dragons responded with a dominant stretch of basketball, reeling off 13 straight points to cut the visitors’ lead to 83-71. Lycoudis, Ricky Fetske, Šulcs, and Tyme Regent-Bascombe all scored in the run.
After a resurgent third quarter, the Dragons had all the momentum as the Trailblazers went ice cold on the offensive end.
The Dragons defensive intensity had gone up several notches since the first half, and the hosts continued to reap the rewards, limiting the visitors to one and done possessions for much of the fourth quarter.
Down 85-78 with just over four minutes to play in the game, the surging Dragons were firing on all cylinders, and the game-winning run duly arrived.
Six straight points pulled the Dragons within a possession (85-83), and then captain Ricky Fetske scored the all-important bucket that put the hosts back on top for the first time since the opening minutes of the game.
Fetske battled his way into the paint and banked in a layup for an and-one opportunity, duly converting, the Dragons stalwart put the Dragons 86-85 to the good.
The visitors were in total disarray, but with just over a-minute-and-a-half to play, the game was still firmly in the balance.
Not letting up, the Dragons stayed focus on the job at hand and worked their way to the line in the clutch.
Firstly, Great Osobor stepped up to sink two clutch free-throws, extending the Dragon lead to 88-85.
Seconds after getting a pivotal stop on the defensive end, Dragons missed a three, but a critical offensive rebound from Osobor allowed the outstanding Andreas Lycoudis to head to the line with the Dragons in the penalty.
Stepping up to drill both free-throws, Lycoudis sealed the Dragons unbelievable comeback victory, putting the hosts 90-85 to the good with just 17 seconds left on the clock.
The Final Score, Bradford Dragons 90-88 Derby Trailblazers. A potentially season-defining victory for Coach Mellor’s team, who fought back from 32-points down to claim a pivotal win in the race for playoff seeding.
The Dragons improve to 6-7 in NBL Division One as they cling on to the eighth seed.
The Official Calderdale College Player of the Game went to Andreas Lycoudis, who led all-scorers with 23 points (12 in the fourth quarter), 7 assists, 5 rebounds, and 3 steals.
Dave Walsh also impressed with 17 points on 5-7 shooting from three-point range, and Rihards Šulcs added a near triple-double with 16 points, 15 rebounds, and 8 steals.
Box Score: https://www.fibalivestats.com/u/BBE/1774130/bs.html
Andreas Lycoudis shared his delight with the Dragons comeback win, he said:
“It was an absolute thriller and joy to be a part of. That win screams team effort right down to the last guy. We had a poor second quarter and start to the third, but when Derby started to get loud and over the top, we took offence to it, and it lit a fire under all of us to claw back from 32pts down.”
Lycoudis also touched on the importance of the victory for the team, adding:
“We’re finally back to winning ways, and with players coming back from injury and playing how we know we can and should be, it is a great feeling.”
Bradford Dragons dropped to 6-8 on the season after a disappointing 77-75 defeat to BA London Lions on Sunday afternoon.
Hoping to build on Saturday’s victory, Dragons faced off against a young Lions team (5-8) who sat one place below the hosts at the start of play.
A closely fought game throughout, but it was the visitors who outlasted the Dragons down the stretch in a low-scoring affair.
Tyme-Regent Bascombe opened the games scoring with a layup, but seven straight points from Abiodun Adedo and Jase Harrison gave the Lions an early 7-2 lead.
With both teams struggling to knock down perimeter jumpers, the paint was the port of call, with only three non-paint scores in the opening period.
Lions led by as many as seven (17-10) in the quarter, but the Dragons closed the first quarter with five straight points, courtesy of an Andreas Lycoudis layup and a Ricky Fetske three.
After one, the Dragons trailed 17-15.
Following a very similar pattern to the opener, the second quarter was the lowest-scoring period of the entire game as both teams looked to turn the screw.
A 9-0 start to the quarter gave the Lions their largest lead of the game (26-15), but Dragons veteran guard Jermayne Laing answered with four straight points to steady the ship.
Next up for a run was the Dragons, with Captain Ricky Fetske and Rihards Šulcs combining to score the Dragons next 10 points in a 10-3 run that reduced the Lions lead to 31-29.
At the break, the hosts trailed 34-29 in a physical paint battle.
Out of halftime, the game seemed to open up for both teams, with the Dragons offense, in particular, looking more fluid.
Against a hyperaggressive Lions team, the Dragons were able to generate offense by working their way to the line.
After drawing quick early fouls, Dragons reaped the rewards at the free-throw line, hitting a perfect 11-11 in the penultimate quarter.
Whilst Coach Mellor’s team was cashing in at the line, Dave Walsh began to get into a groove on the offensive end.
Walsh scored 10 in the period, knocking down two threes to propel the Dragons to a 27-point third quarter.
Despite the uptick in offense production, the hosts still trailed 57-56 going into the final 10 minutes of action.
The worst possible start to the fourth quarter for Dragons forced Coach Mellor into a quick timeout.
Threes from Shaun Samson and Harrison ballooned the Lions lead to 63-56 less than two minutes into the final period.
Like the third quarter, early Lions foul trouble allowed the Dragons to stay in touch by forcing their way to the free-throw line.
The Dragons first eight points came from the free-throw line as part of a 12-5 run that clawed the Dragons back level for the first time since the opening quarter.
A converted Andreas Lycoudis and-one layup tied the game at 70 with just over four minutes to play in the game.
However, an almost three-minute stretch without a bucket for Dragons allowed the Lions to build up a 75-69 lead inside the final two minutes of the game.
Walsh responded with a three to cut the lead to 76-73, but unable to execute down the stretch, the Dragons fell to a narrow defeat.
The Final Score, Bradford Dragons 75-77 BA London Lions. Despite 26-31 shooting from the free-throw line, 15 Dragons turnovers turned into 24 points for the Lions was the game’s key story.
Dragons drop to 6-8 on the season as the battle for the final three playoff seeds tighten up.
The Official Calderdale College Player of the Game went to Ricky Fetske who top-scored for Dragons with 16 points and 14 rebounds.
Rihards Šulcs also added a near double-double of 10 points and 9 rebounds.
Box Score: https://www.fibalivestats.com/u/BBE/1774140/bs.html#ASFSK
Coach Mellor gave his summary of the weekend’s doubleheader, he said:
“We showed great fight and character to come back from a seemingly impossible position in the third quarter on Saturday, so it was disappointing on Sunday to just fall short.”
Photographs © Alex Daniel Photography