Bradford Dragons move up to 7-7 on the season after a dominant 87-66 road victory over the Essex & Hertz Leopards.
The Dragons turned in yet another fine performance on both sides of the ball, ensuring a happy trip back up the M1 for Coach Mellor’s team.
Despite a back and forth beginning to the game, the Dragons blew away their struggling opponents once the team found their legs in Hertfordshire .
Dragons captain Ricky Fetske led from the front, opening the games scoring with a layup. Shortly after producing two stops, the visitors built an early five-point buffer thanks to Dave Walsh’s first three-pointer of the evening.
Desperately searching for an end to their dismal run of five straight losses, the Leopards clawed their way back on level terms with buckets from Teni Mongo and Jerelle Okoro.
As the two teams traded buckets in the opening quarter of play, it was the flawless shooting of Albert Margai that stood out for Dragons.
Knocking down his first three shots, all of which resulted in three points. Two came the standard way with the middle score coming from a converted and-one opportunity.
A member of the 2015 NBL Division One winning Leopards team, Margai seemed right at home with a confident opening period for the Dragons.
After Andreas Lycoudis and Toby Gastalidi-Davies traded threes to open the second period, it was all one-way traffic from Dragons.
The visitors turned on the defensive clamps, limiting their opponents to a scoreless run of nearly three-and-a-half minutes. First to every loose ball, the Dragons were killing the Leopards on the boards as the team scored 17 straight points to blow the game wide open.
Six Dragons scored in the run with Margai, Walsh, and Lycoudis all hitting threes. With just over five minutes to play in the half, Dragons were up 41-24.
A 12-4 run over the next two minutes pulled the Leopards straight back into the game as they fought back to within nine points of the visitors.
Just as the hosts were fighting to keep the score-line to single digits heading into halftime. The Bradford Dragons shut out the hosts for the final two minutes of the half, scoring seven unanswered points, ballooning the lead back to 15 points.
A monster 30-point second quarter gave Dragons a commanding 51-36 lead heading into the break.
Desperately hoping for a revival in the third quarter, the Leopards got off to the worst possible start. Out of half time, the hosts went scoreless for the opening five minutes gifting the Dragons the golden opportunity to build an unassailable lead.
The Dragons stellar defence stifled the Big Cats offense completely, holding the hosts to just nine points in the third quarter. Struggling offensively for large spells of the game, Mongo showed signs of Leopards fight with back-to-back jumpers that cut the visitors lead to 24, heading into the final quarter of action.
Entering the fourth quarter up 69-45, the visitors took their foot off the pedal ever so slightly allowing the hosts to pull within 17 points but made sure a dominating final score-line was never in doubt.
Controlling the painted area throughout the game, Dragons outscored the Leopards 42-20 in the paint. As well as completely overwhelming their opponents on the boards, prevailing 59-46 with 21 offensive rebounds in another outstanding team rebounding effort.
The final score, Essex & Hertz Leopards 66-87 Bradford Dragons. A third successive NBL Division One win solidifies eighth place for the Dragons who look primed for an outstanding second half of the season.
Coach Mellor gave an honest review of his team’s performance post-game, “After an even first quarter we controlled the game pretty much the rest of the way. It wasn’t a great performance, to be honest, but Essex battled hard and it’s nice to get another win.”
Solidifying his place amongst the top rebounders in the division, Ricky Fetske notched a sixth straight double-double, recording an eye-watering stat line of 17 points, 21 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks and 2 steals in just 29 minutes.
Long-time Dragon Rihards Šulcs notched his second-straight double-double, racking up 18 points, 13 rebounds, and 3 steals. Dave Walsh also added 18 points with former Leopard Albert Margai scoring 15 points on his return.
Next up for the Dragons is a road trip to face the Loughborough Riders on Saturday, January 25 at 2.00pm.
Meanwhile, all three of the Dragons' Junior National league sides were in action over the weekend. It was another loss for the under 14s, going down to a single point loss against Leeds White, 57-58. The under 16s continued their excellent season with a dominant 40-96 win at Chesterfield Flight, whilst there was also a win for the under 18s, 90-79, also against Leeds.
Photographs © Alex Daniel Photography