Dragons impressive start to Division One play continues
Bradford Dragons claimed a dominant 102-72 home victory against the Oakland Wolves in NBL Division One.
The Dragons showed no signs of rust in their first competitive game since December 19th, as Coach Mellor’s team improved to 4-1 on the season.
Playing out of the Nottingham Wildcats Arena for the foreseeable future, the Dragons made the best possible start to life in unfamiliar surroundings, but it wasn’t all plain sailing.
The visitors came to Nottingham looking to make it three league victories on the bounce and looked much the sharper team, breaking into an early 7-0 lead.
But once the Dragons got on the scoreboard through Ricky Fetske, the hosts never looked back. Just as quickly as the lead had been made, it disappeared, as the Dragons tied the game at 14.
The Dragons looked strong defensively from the outset, but it was all about getting re-acclimated on the offensive side of the ball.
The turning point of the first quarter came when new signing, and former Dragons' Junior Great Osobor, subbed in for his first action in Dragons uniform, with just over three minutes left in the period.
The Dragons went straight to the hometown boy on the offensive end and weren’t disappointed as Osobor faced his man up in the post, blowing past the defender for an and-one layup.
Osobor then showcased his qualities on the other end of the floor, showing some outstanding defense on the next possession.
The Dragons led 25-17 after the opening ten minutes of action.
The visitors did fight back in the opening two minutes of the second period, cutting the hosts’ lead to 29-27, but then came the game-defining moment.
A dominant 17-4 run over the next eight minutes of action turned the game on its head as the Dragons locked in on both sides of the ball.
A tremendous stint of team defensive was the catalyst as Dragons began to score at will. Captain Fetske led by example with 13 points in the run as Osobor and Šulcs also chipped in as the Dragons big men dominated the Wolves backline.
The hosts were heavily active in the passing lanes, with several transition buckets coming off the back of tenacious Dragons defense.
Heading into half-time, the Dragons led 46-31.
Ricky Fetske had a first-half double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds, with long-time Dragons teammate Rihards Šulcs adding 13 points and 6 rebounds in a dominant opening 20 minutes from the duo.
Dragons looked impressive in the first half, but in the penultimate quarter, they turned it up a notch.
Having taken only three three-point attempts in the entirety of the first half, the Dragons began to light it up from deep in the third quarter.
Four of the Dragons first six buckets in the period came from the three-point line as Andreas Lycoudis and Fetske knocked down two threes each, opening up a 24-point lead in the process (64-38).
Closing a 32-point third quarter, the Dragons were comfortably in control of proceedings, up 78-48 heading into the final ten minutes of action.
Whilst the Dragons did let their foot off the gas somewhat in the final period, Coach Mellor’s team extended the lead to as many as 33.
The Final Score, Bradford Dragons 102-72 Oakland Wolves. Dragons claimed a second-successive league victory with an outstanding all-round team performance. A 20-8 assist advantage and an impressive 49-29 advantage on the boards were the storylines for the Dragons.
Ricky Fetske notched an impressive 25 points and 16 rebounds double-double, with Rihards Šulcs also excelling, adding 21 points and 7 rebounds. A big shoutout to Great Osobor, who performed outstandingly on his Dragons debut with 18 points, 13 rebounds, and 3 blocks in 24 minutes of play off the Dragons bench, earning him the Player of the Game Award.
The Dragons improve to 4-1 in NBL Division One, solidifying their spot in the top six.
Box Score: https://www.fibalivestats.com/u/BBE/1773988/bs.html#ASFSK
Coach Mellor said:
“We did a good job defensively, and we shot the ball really well. It was a decent all-around team performance.”
Dragons fall at the quarter-finals stage of the L Lynch Trophy
The Dragons fell to a disappointing 91-68 defeat on the road against the Loughborough Riders on Sunday afternoon.
Two games in as many days was always going to be a daunting task for a Dragons team working its way back to full fitness.
Great Osobor was unavailable for selection, due to being cup-tied, but the Dragons welcomed back Jermayne Laing and Uche Umekwe for the trip to Loughborough.
In complete contrast to the previous day’s proceedings, Dragons started well, breaking into an early 10-3 lead.
Despite both team’s carelessness with the ball, Rihards Šulcs continued his impressive recent play, scoring six of the Dragons first ten points.
After a Ricky Fetske driving layup made the score 12-6 in favour of the visitors, Dragons went scoreless for over four minutes, relinquishing the lead for the final time in the game.
Early foul trouble for Šulcs and Fetske coincided with the Riders’ spell of dominance, as Kyle Jimenez and Harrison Gamble combined for 11 straight points to end the opening quarter.
Heading into the second quarter, Dragons were down 17-15.
The second quarter followed a similar trajectory to the opening period, with Dragons competing well early on, but the Riders began to get comfortable on the offensive end.
With the Dragons big men in foul trouble, Gamble began to take the game by the scruff-of-the-neck, pouring in 14 points in the period.
The Dragons looked lethargic on the offensive end as they struggled to generate the same looks, they were consistently getting against the Oakland Wolves.
Down 45-30 with a little over two minutes left in the first half, Andreas Lycoudis continued his fine shooting exploits with seven straight points for the Dragons.
A layup and two threes from a red-hot Lycoudis ensured the visitors were still firmly in the game going into halftime, down 49-38.
Out of the break, Coach Mellor’s team was looking to chip away at the lead.
The third quarter was a frustrating period for Dragons. The visitors fought to cut into the lead, but they were never able to muster up a meaningful run.
Lycoudis, Fetske, and Šulcs combined to score all of the Dragons 20 points in the period, taking it in turns to get a little bit of momentum with back-to-back buckets.
Unfortunately, despite the brief glimmers of hope, the visitors only managed to cut the lead to nine points (67-58) before going the final two minutes of the period scoreless.
With the opportunity to work their way back into the game, a costly scoreless run allowed the hosts to extend the lead back to 15 points (73-58).
The Dragons were always within touching distance throughout the game, but the hosts finally ensured there would be no comeback for Dragons in the opening minutes of the final quarter.
A string of Dragons turnovers and misses enabled the Riders to build the lead up to 19 (83-64) halfway through the fourth quarter.
The hosts never looked back from that moment, and the game fizzled out with Dragons second-best on the day.
The Final Score, Loughborough Riders 91-68 Bradford Dragons. The Dragons were eliminated from the L Lynch trophy after a disappointing afternoon in the East Midlands.
Rihards Šulcs top-scored for Dragons with 21 points and 6 rebounds. Andreas Lycoudis added 20 points, going a notable 4-7 (57% from three-point range) also adding 6 rebounds, and 6 assists. Ricky Fetske notched yet another double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds.
Harrison Gamble led the game in scoring with 28 points and 11 rebounds.
Box Score: https://www.fibalivestats.com/u/BBE/1810623/bs.html#ASFSK
Coach Mellor gave an honest reflection of his team’s performance, he said:
“It was a disappointing effort after playing well the night before, but fair play to Loughborough they did a good job at both ends of the floor.”
Next up for Dragons is a return to NBL Division One action and a road clash against newly promoted Essex Rebels on Saturday, January 30, with tip-off at 3.30pm.
Photos © Lello Ametrano (www.inaframe.net)