A last-second three from Brandon Federici sealed a last gasp victory for the visitors, who scored eight straight points to end the game.
The Dragons finish a difficult regular season in 11th position with a 7-12 record as all attention turns to the start of the playoffs next weekend.
The visitors opened up a low-scoring opening quarter on a 7-2 run as Emmanuel Kabengele and Newcastle’s leading scorer Ronald Blain combined to score seven early points.
Dragons responded with a three from Tyme Regent-Bascombe and a layup from Jermayne Laing to tie the game.
Blain and Kabengele continued to frustrate Dragons as they combined to score seven of the next nine Newcastle points, extending their team’s lead to 16-9.
Closing the quarter strongly, the hosts’ scored seven straight points to end the opening period tied at 16-16.
The visitor’s duo of Blain and Kabengele combined for eight quick points as Team Newcastle re-established a five-point lead (24-19) in the opening minutes of the period.
Off the bench, sharpshooter Dave Walsh scored the Dragons first eight points of the quarter as the game began to go back and forth.
Neither team managed to string together a meaningful run as both teams cancelled each other out in a well contested second quarter.
At halftime, the game was all tied up at 40-40.
Heading into the penultimate quarter of action, the game was poised for a team to blow the game wide open, and unfortunately for the Dragons faithful, it was the visitors who rose to the fore.
Team Newcastle broke out to a 17-5 start, knocking down four threes on the way to a 57-45 lead with just under four minutes to play in the quarter.
In a pivotal stretch, the Dragons had to respond to stay in the game, and on cue, the hosts rattled off eight straight points to cut the lead to 57-54.
With the regular season winding down, the final quarter of the league season proved to be a cracker.
In a fourth quarter of runs, the visitors struck first, opening up a 64-58 lead in the first two minutes of action.
But the Dragons came roaring back with an 8-2 run that tied the game at 66-66.
For the next couple of minutes, both teams traded buckets, but with 3:07 left on the clock, the visitors held a narrow 70-69 lead.
Then the Dragons climbed into the ascendency after stringing together back-to-back three-point plays.
First up was Lycoudis with a three, before Uche Umewke converted a tough and-one layup to hand Dragons a 75-70 lead, with just over two minutes of the regular season remaining.
With the hosts in a dominant position, Federici took the game by the scruff of the neck and single-handedly dragged his Newcastle team back to level terms.
Knocking in a three before nailing a mid-range jumper on the next offensive possession, Federici then went one step further in the final seconds.
However, the Dragons had a chance to claim victory first. Out of a timeout with just 11 seconds left on the game clock, Coach Mellor’s team generated a good look at the rim, but it didn’t fall.
Back came the visitors, with the ever-dangerous Ronald Blain bringing the ball up the court. The American drove into the paint before shovelling the ball out to Federici, who swished home a game-winning three in the right corner.
With less than a second on the clock, Dragons had to launch a full-court heave, but it wasn’t to be, and the hosts end the regular season with a narrow defeat.
The Final Score, Bradford Dragons 75-78 Team Newcastle University. Dragons finish the NBL Division One Regular Season with a 7-12 record.
The Official Bradford Dragons Calderdale College Player of the Game went to Rihards Šulcs, who scored 12 points, adding 16 rebounds and 4 assists.
Four Dragons scored in double figures, with Andreas Lycoudis leading the scoring with 17 points on his return to the team.
Ronald Blain and Brandon Federici led all scorers with 25 points apiece.
Box Score: https://www.fibalivestats.com/u/BBE/1774164/bs.html#ASFSK
Coach Mellor reflected on his team’s inability to score down the stretch, he said:
“We competed well defensively, and it was a pretty even game throughout, but we didn’t close the game out, and they took full advantage.”
Next up for Dragons is the first round of the playoffs, where they will match up against the Essex Rebels on Sunday, April 25th, with tip-off at 1pm.