Five regular-season games remain for the Bradford Dragons as the post-season looms ever closer. This weekend, the Dragons will take on the 3-19 Westminster Warriors on the road on Saturday at 5.30pm, before taking on the 13-8 Reading Rockets at the Dragons Den on Sunday with tip-off at 4.15pm.
One of the division’s form sides in 2020, the Dragons have won six of their nine games so far this year and will aim to add two crucial wins to that tally. Looking to bounce back from last Saturday’s tough defeat against the Hemel Storm, this weekend’s double-header presents Coach Mellor’s team with an opportunity to kick-start momentum down the final stretch of the season.
Chris Mellor will be looking for an instant response from his team and he is under no illusions of the challenges this weekend poses the Dragons. Coach said,
“Westminster and Reading will provide us with two tough tests this weekend. Westminster is fighting to stay in the division and are always tough at home and Reading are a talented team who will be trying to cement a top-six finish.”
Speaking on the Dragons defeat to Hemel last time out, Captain Ricky Fetske is adamant his team will respond this weekend.
“We are ready to bounce back after last weekend’s disappointing defeat. We are excited and looking forward to the challenge of a doubleheader this weekend at Westminster and a home game against the Reading Rockets.”
Continuing on the team’s mindset as the regular season draws to a close, Fetske added:
“With a productive week of training, we will be heading into this weekend with confidence. We are in the home stretch of the season and I believe we have shown that we can win against anyone in this league. If we stick to our game plan, we will continue climbing the playoff ladder.”
The Westminster Warriors host the Dragons on Saturday and come into the game without a win in their last 15 NBL Division One games. Sitting third-bottom in the division, the Warriors are in the midst of a four-team relegation battle. Sitting two points above Liverpool, Westminster and the Essex & Herts Leopards sit level on 6 points, whilst Barking Abbey holds a slender two-point lead over the two teams.
Westminster’s last win came on November 9th, 2019, when they defeated fellow relegation rivals Liverpool 90-61 on their home floor. Saturday’s clash marks the return fixture after the late November clash at the Dragons Den resulted in a 104-90 win for Dragons. Dave Walsh, Ricky Fetske and Rihards Šulcs all scored 20+ points with Šulcs leading all scorers with 26 points.
Notably, all three of the Warriors wins this season have come on their home court. Alongside the aforementioned victory over Liverpool, Westminster has also beaten Essex and Reading. Last time out, the Westminster Warriors fell to a 107-87 home defeat against the Worthing Thunder.
Key Player - Jon Johnson
The 31-year-old Brit is averaging 16.3 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game. Johnson is leading his team in rebounds and steals and ranks second on the roster in scoring and assists. The Warriors player-coach will look to prevent an immediate return to NBL Division Two after promotion last season marked the club’s first top-flight campaign since the 2016-17 season.
Reading travel to the Dragons Den looking to snap a four-game losing run in all competitions. League defeats against Essex, Solent, and the Leicester Warriors have seen the Rockets fall to the sixth seed with a 13-8 record. Like Dragons, Reading will also play on Saturday ahead of Sunday’s game in West Yorkshire. Taking to the road and facing off against the Derby Trailblazers, the team one place and two points above them in the league table.
Sitting two spots and four points ahead of the Dragons, a win on Sunday could take Coach Mellor’s team level on points with the Rockets depending on how both teams fare on Saturday. The Rockets narrowly defeated Dragons 78-75 when the teams last met in December. Nick Richards led his team with 21 points including two clutch free throws that iced the game in the final seconds.
Last time out Reading fell to a 97-91 OT defeat against the Essex & Hertz Leopards. Sunday’s game represents a vitally important game for both sides who are vying to climb up the playoff seedings. One of the league’s premier programs, the Rockets will certainly provide Dragons with a firm test of their playoff credentials this weekend.
Key Player – Nick Richards
In his first season in Berkshire, the 24-year-old American is leading his team in scoring at 22.4 points per game. Richards is averaging the fifth highest points per game in the division, on 57% shooting from the field and 80.7% at the free-throw line. One of the league’s elite scorers, the combo guard has scored 30+ points three times this season and scored a season-high 32 points in a December 14 th victory against the Worthing Thunder.
Photographs © Alex Daniel Photography