Latvian, Rihards Šulcs (Sponsored by Templewood Photography) almost went from hero to villain on Saturday evening, as the Bradford Dragons took a thrilling overtime win against Worthing Thunder (127-126), in the Dragons’ Den.
Sulcs had played a solid game throughout and, along with American point guard Marcus Gooding (Sponsored by Gooding Funeral Services), headed the Bradford scorers on 34 points. But a needless foul in the dying moment of normal time gave Worthing the opportunity to steal the game.
With the Dragons leading by a single point (114-113) Eisley Swaine was sent to the line for two shots. With only a fraction of a second remaining on the clock Swaine had the opportunity to seal the game but fell short with both shots.
With the home crowd making as much noise as they could, in an attempt to throw Taylor off balance, he missed the first of his three attempts. He made no mistake with the second, levelling the score and leaving him one more shot to take the win. To the relief of the home crowd, the shot bounced out, off the rim, sending the game into a five-minute period of overtime.
The pace of the game was set, right from the start of the game, with Worthing scoring straight from the tip and Ricky Fetske (Sponsored by ALW Guitars) responding immediately with a three-pointer. Both teams maintained the high tempo, but it was Thunder that held a three-point lead at the end of a high scoring opening quarter (29-32).
There was very little let up in the second, with both teams going at it hammer and tongs. Gooding hit two three-pointers early in the period, to put Bradford in control, but neither team were able to pull clear. The home side led through the majority of the period, but Worthing refused to let go and as the half time buzzer sounded, they had restored their three-point advantage (55-58).
In the final ninety seconds of the game, Fetske sank a three and then a two to put the Dragons ten point up. Taylor hit back with a three for Worthing, but a further two from Šulcs ensured that the hosts entered the final period with a solid, nine-point advantage.
The Dragons maintained their lead through the opening stages of the fourth quarter, increasing to double figures. However, slowly but surely, the resilient visiting side clawed their way back into the game. With little over three minutes remaining, Bradford’s coach, Chris Mellor, called a time out, having seen a ten-point advantage cut to just four (108-104).
Two minutes later, it was all square at 108 apiece and it now looked as though Worthing were the most likely winners.
But, by the time Mellor called his second time out of the half, with just under 40 seconds on the clock, his team had managed to re-establish a slight lead (113-111).
The visitors missed their three-point shot, which would have tied the game, but Thunder captain, Brendan Okoronkwo picked up the rebound and layed up for two.
In a last-ditch effort to gain possession, Thunder were forced into making the foul on Swaine, sending Bradford’s young starlet to the line, with the opportunity to seal the victory for his team. However, his failure to sink either of his two shots and, more notably, Šulc’s recklessness sent Taylor to the line at the other end.
As the game went into overtime, Fetske was immediately handed an opportunity to put the Dragons two up, when he was the victim of an unsportsmanlike foul, under the basket.
But Worthing hit straight back and established a lead of their own. But neither team could break loose, and with only 19.5 seconds remaining the scores were tied at 126 each.
In the dying seconds of the game, Lufadeju was fouled and went to the line for three shots. He sank the first, but missed the other two, leaving Worthing with just enough time to go down the other end for a final shot. But with time running out, they saw their lay-up bounce out, leaving Bradford to celebrate the win.
Fetske could easily have been named man of the match himself, recording his first triple-double of the season, with 26 points. 13 rebounds and 10 assists, whilst Swaine also recorded a double-double with 17 points and 13 assists.
After the game, a jubilant Mellor stated, “That was one crazy game. Both defences took the night off and it was an absolute offensive show from both teams. We couldn’t stop them and they couldn’t stop us and luckily we just managed to hold on and get the last stop.”
The Dragons now face a double header weekend with an away fixture at Manchester Magic on Saturday. The Dragons will be keen to finally put Magic’s curse to bed, having not won in the last eleven meetings between the two sides.
The action then returns to the Dragons’ Den on Sunday afternoon (4:15pm) when bottom placed side, Lancashire Spinners provide the opposition.
Dragons under 16s lost 41-81 to Durham Wildcats, at Buttershaw Business and Enterprise College on Saturday, whilst the under 14s travelled to Chesterfield Flight, where they also lost 49-58.
On Sunday both teams took to the Buttershaw court in a double header against Tees Valley Mohawks. The under 16s lost a hard-fought game, 75-83, whilst the under 14s also lost, 49-80.
Photographs © Don Crabtree.