The win improves the Dragons record to 4-6 on the season and takes the team up to ninth place in the standings. Level on points with eighth placed Leicester Warriors, who despite having an inferior points difference, have the head-to-head against the Dragons. Bradford sit just one spot outside of the playoffs.
Both teams came into Saturday evenings clash with a 3-6 record, looking to snap losing league runs. The Warriors came into the Dragons Den with a two-game losing run, whilst the Dragons lost last time out in a tight overtime defeat at the hands of Hemel Storm.
Capitalising on last weekend’s promising displays, the Dragons wasted no time getting off to a hot start against the Westminster Warriors. Scoring a season-high 36 points in the first quarter.
Dave Walsh opened the games scoring with the first of his four three-pointers in the quarter. The Dragons scored on five of their first six offensive trips to open up a 13-5 lead inside three minutes.
The opening quarter was all about how well the Dragons were able to share the ball. Getting into the driving lines consistently, Rihards Šulcs and Jermayne Laing were able to profit from the hosts’ ball movement at the rim. Combining for 14 assists in the quarter, Bradford crushed the Warriors defence early on.
Five successive lay-ups pushed Dragons into a controlling 25-12 lead with 3:43 to play in the opening period. Afrasyab Khalil and Guy Rundle responded for the Warriors with a 5-0 run to reduce the lead to 8.
Walsh and Andreas Lycoudis rounded out the quarter knocking down three, three-pointers, as the Dragons resident marksman hit his third and fourth three of the evening. Bradford were up 36-23 after the opening 10 minutes.
The second quarter, frustratingly for Coach Mellor, couldn’t have been any more in contrast to the opener. The Dragons scored a lowly 12 points in a turnover-filled second period that the visiting Westminster Warriors dominated.
After a Ricky Fetske three-point jumper had pushed the Bradford lead back to four (45-41), the Dragons went almost four and a half minutes without a basket as the visitors thoroughly took advantage of the hosts offensive struggles.
Jon Johnson scored eight successive points with Philip Lartey and Max Hufschlag adding four points in the Warriors 12-0 run. Johnson took over the quarter, scoring 15 of the Warriors 30 points in the second quarter.
Lycoudis struck a much needed three to end the half, cutting the visitors lead to 53-48 heading into half time.
The third quarter was a back and forth affair, with neither team able to build more than a five-point lead. Šulcs and Fetske combined for 19 of the Dragons 28 points in the penultimate period.
As the Dragons seemingly looked poised to blow open a lead, back came the Warriors with a run of their own. Fortunately, for the home faithful inside of the Dragons Den, it was the hosts who managed to take control of proceedings, ending the quarter 76-71 to the good.
The final quarter followed a similar pattern, as the Dragons blew hot and cold in the matter of a few minutes.
A trio of Šulcs lay-ups to start the fourth quarter was complemented by a third Lycoudis three of the evening. The hosts were up 85-77, representing their largest lead since the first quarter.
Then came a two and a half minute Dragons scoreless run which the Warriors weren’t able to fully capitalise upon. Reducing the arrears to 85-82 with 5:30 left to play on the game clock.
Thankfully for the Dragons, the visitors proceeded to go on a barren run of their own. A run of over three minutes without a bucket provided the Dragons the perfect opportunity to take control of the game.
When Lartey went 1-2 from the free line, trimming the deficit to 93-83, the damage had well and truly been done for the visitors.
The Dragons saw out the final two minutes of play, sealing a gritty 104-90 victory over the Westminster Warriors.
A 31-15 assists advantage for the Dragons who also shot an impressive 14-28 from three. As ball movement and efficient shooting from three-point range proved to be catalysts in the victory.
Coach Mellor commented post game, “The first half was a free flowing up and down game which wasn’t the plan, but second half our defence was much better, and we got multiple stops to pull away in the fourth.”
The Official University of Bradford Player of the Game went to Rihards Šulcs who recorded 26 points, 12 rebounds and 6 assists in a solid all-around performance.
Ricky Fetske notched his fifth double-double of the season with 25 points and 10 rebounds. Notably, Dave Walsh also added 24 points, going 6-13 from three.
Next up at the Dragons Den is the NBL Division One clash against the Leicester Warriors on Saturday, January 11 at 6.15pm.
In Junior Dragons news, the Dragons U16s narrowly defeated York QE 65-60. Meanwhile, the U14s fell to a tough 75-44 defeat by the Hatfield Fliers. The U18s were also on the end of a tough defeat, losing 110-86 against the Mansfield Giants.
Photographs © Alex Daniel Photography