Turnovers and the resulting transition buckets killed the hosts all evening long. Any momentum that was gained from a string of defensive stops was quickly negated with an unforced turnover and poor defensive transition.
Like so often this season, the Dragons got off to a slow start on Matchday 5. The visitors had built up a 17-9 lead with 3:27 left in the first quarter with the hosts struggling to knock down jump shots early on.
Dragons responded positively though, as Rafi Saipe and Matt Armstrong knocked down back to back threes, in a much-needed offensive run. The lead was down to four.
However, that bright spell was short-lived, and the visitors answered with a game-high, scoring run that blew their lead open to 11 points (26-15). The Dragons headed into the second quarter trailing after a fifth consecutive first quarter this season.
Liverpool for all of the Dragons struggles wasn’t capable of pulling away from their opponents. Never leading by more than nine points in the second, the Dragons Den had a sense of anticipation hovering over it, as the home faithful awaited a Bradford run.
Reminiscent of last weekend, the hosts did surge, and it was Dave Walsh whose sharpshooting clawed his team back into the game. Walsh produced an 11-4 run of his own, knocking down three treys that had the big crowd roaring in satisfaction. All of a sudden, we had a one-point game.
Frustratingly for Coach Mellor, that hard work was quickly undone. Transition buckets were a thorn in the Dragons defence all game. Holding a 23-9 fast break advantage on the evening, it was a flurry of fast-break sequences to end the half, that handed Liverpool a 53-46 lead at the interval.
Third quarters have become something of a specialty for the Bradford Dragons this season. True to early season form, the Dragons shaded a low scoring third period 15-13. Seven turnovers in the quarter prevented the hosts from taking advantage though.
The duo of Mark Rangeley and captain Jack Hudson kept the Liverpool offense ticking over, scoring 11 of their teams 13 points in the penultimate quarter. The Dragons had reduced the seven-point halftime deficit, but ultimately still trailed by five points entering the fourth quarter.
Reiss Haggith knocked down a three to start the quarter, extending the visitors lead to eight points in the worst possible start to the final period for Bradford.
Rihards Šulcs recorded the Dragons first points of the fourth with a layup, cutting the lead to seven. However, then came the decisive spell in the game. Bradford went cold on the offensive end, going the best part of three and a half minutes without a bucket.
Liverpool duly capitalised and with 4:28 left in the game, the Dragons were down by 14. The visitors had finally broken out into an insurmountable lead, they had threatened for large spells of the game.
Ricky Fetske offered a brief moment of hope for the Dragons with a three-set spell of dominance. Firstly, knocking down a mid-range jumper, and then following it up with a chase-down block on the next defensive set. In the resulting transition break, the American slammed home to cut the lead down to seven.
The Dragons just couldn’t get any stops when they needed them most, and the visitors sealed the deal 94-82. Outscoring the hosts in the paint 50-34 on the evening.
Head Coach Chris Mellor commented, “It was a poor performance, we didn’t defend and rebound well, and Liverpool fully deserved the win.”
The Official University of Bradford Player of the Game went to Rafi Saipe who recorded 14 points, 7 assists, and 5 rebounds.
Dave Walsh top-scored for the Dragons with 16 points, going 4-9 from three and Ricky Fetske added a 13 point and 10 rebound double-double. Liverpool’s Mark Rangeley led all scorers with 23 points.
Next up is an away fixture at table toppers Team Solent Kestrels, a game which provides the sternest of tests of the Dragons’ resolve.
The action returns to the Dragons Den for a League and Cup double-header, the following weekend. First, the Dragons host Barking Abbey Crusaders on Saturday, November 9 at 6.15pm in NBL Division 1. This is followed by Third Round National Cup action against Team Newcastle on Sunday, November 10 at 4.15pm.
Photographs © Alex Daniel Photography