The Dragons, who finished the regular season in eighth position, travelled to Brentwood on Sunday afternoon, looking to upset the odds and pull off what was seen as an unlikely victory. However, their hosts, who have been in outstanding form this season and had already beaten the Dragons in both of their league encounters, were in no mood to give up on their dreams of a double celebration.
It was a slow start for the Dragons as Essex looked like pulling away early in the first quarter. However, the visitors dug deep and pulled the scores back to within three points at the first break, 18-15.
Early in the second period, Bradford looked as though they had knocked the spots off the Leopards, as they pulled back the deficit and stormed into an eight point lead of their own. However, the hosts quickly sprung back into action and at the half time break they held a slender one point advantage, 39-38.
In the final period, both teams fought hard and the lead swung from side to side, but with only five minutes of the game remaining Dragons just had the edge, at 68-70. It didn’t look as though the two teams could be separated, however in the final three minutes, the Leopards showed their championship credentials, pouncing on their prey and killing off the game. However, the Dragons can hold their head high, having fought to the very last and they now enter into their long summer break, ready to come back refreshed in September.
American point guard, Jeremee J.P. Davis headed the scoring for Bradford with 23 points, followed by Rihards Sulcs (15 points) and Miguel Lorenzo (13 points).
Dragons head coach, Chris Mellor, commented, “It was a game where neither team got in front by more than 8 points at any stage, but ultimately it came down to them hitting some big shots at the end. It’s a disappointing way to end the season, but we gave it our best shot.”
Essex now join Derby Trailblazers, Kent Crusaders and Manchester Magic in the final fours finale, to held in Sheffield next weekend. The semi-finals will be played on Saturday afternoon, with the two winners facing off in the final on Sunday.
Elsewhere, the Dragons under 16’s also lost out in their playoff second round game, against Northern Conference winners Newcastle Eagles, 74-65, who maintain their unbeaten record.
Junior coach, Dan Tordoff, summarised the game saying, “It was a terrible three quarters of basketball which cost us the game. We lacked defensive intensity and lost the rebound battle during that period. We stepped things up in the fourth quarter and showed what we are capable of, but by that time the game was already out of reach. It was a very disappointing result, as we have had such a great season.”
However, there was better news for the under 14’s, who took the court against Northants Thunder in the first round of their playoff competition. The Dragons, who had the benefit of home advantage, progressed to the quarter finals, following an 82-62 victory.
Tordoff said, “It was a competitive game throughout with Thunder finally wilting under the pressure that we applied at both ends of the court. The lads put in a great team performance, showing improvement to take into the next round.”
The under 14’s will now travel to the south coast, to face Worthing Thunder in next weekend’s quarter finals.