Bradford Dragons headed down the M1 to Loughborough University on Saturday, where they faced off against Loughborough Riders in the National Basketball League first division. Having trailed from the off, the Dragons left it late, but bounced back to take a fourth successive league victory (74-80).
The Dragons still have Andreas Lycoudis and Rihards Sulcs side-lined through injury, whilst Stephen Towell also missed the game through sickness. However, the Bradford side were boosted by the inclusion of another new signing, 6’4” Guard, Micah Savery-Richards.
For the Dragons’ the game couldn’t have got off to a worse start, with their hosts taking a 10-0 lead within the first couple of minutes play. Ricky Fetske stemmed the flow temporarily, with a successful two point hook shot.
But, Loughborough were hungry for the win and with six minutes played, their lead was up to sixteen points (19-3). Fouled in the act of shooting, Jermayne Laing sank his two shots from the line and then followed up with a two point layup, which triggered a mini revival by the Dragons, and at the end of the first quarter the deficit was a more respectable nine points (24-15). In fact, it could have been even lower had Zach Gachette made his last second lay-up count.
Jo Bielak then hit a three, to calm Loughborough’s nerves. Yet, still the Dragons powered on, Gachette sinking two from the foul line and Harris adding a further lay-up and now the game was down to a single score (27-25).
But, then the tide turned in the home sides favour again and towards the back end of the first half, their lead was right back up to fourteen (47-33). However, the Dragons mustered up another mini streak and at half time they were behind by just seven points (49-42).
After the break, the Riders put the first points on the board but the Dragons seemed to have found their swagger, and scores from Laing (x2) and Fetske brought them back to within striking distance (51-49).
But each time the Bradford side got close, the Riders seemed to step up a gear and pull away agai, and by the mid point in the third period their lead was back up to double figures (59-49).
Once more, the balance of play swung back in Bradford’s favour and they finished out the penultimate quarter with an 8-13 run, reducing the deficit back to just five points (67-62), with just one final period to play.
Within a minute of the restart, Loughborough had regained a double-digit lead (72-62) and it was looking like an uphill struggle for the Dragons.
However, as the saying goes, ‘It’s not over ‘til the fat lady sings,’ and from Bradford’s perspective the fat lady wasn’t even in the building.
Gachette hit a two point fade-away, which Savery-Richards followed up with a jump shot for another two points. Loughborough were now struggling to land their shots, picking up just an occasional single from the foul line.
With little under three minutes remaining on the clock, the visitors were right back in the game at just a single point behind their hosts (74-73).
With just seventy-eight seconds on the clock, Gachette was sent to the line, knowing that if he could sink both shots Bradford would have their first lead of the game. And sink them he did!
Loughborough missed their next two shots and as Savery-Richards went to the basket he was fouled by Justin Hedley. The Dragons’ new-boy missed the first of his two shots, but made no mistake with the second.
At the other end, Laing fouled Victor Ndoukou, but when the Riders player missed both attempts from the free throw line the writing was on the wall for the hosts, who were now forced into the seldom successful routine of fouling in an attempt to regain the possession.
But this merely gave Bradford the opportunity to extend their lead, from the line, first through Gazette and then Dave Walsh. When the buzzer indicated the end of the game the Dragons were celebrating a fourth straight win (74-80), which moved them two points clear of their opponents.
It came as no surprise that, yet again, Gachette led the Bradford scorers on 27 points, also adding 10 rebounds to record a double-double. Walsh, Laing and Fetske each contributed 11 points, whilst debut making Savery-Richards also made a very respectable 10 points.
Dragons Head Coach, Chris Mellor commented on the game. “We didn’t play at all well in the first half. They (Loughborough) were hitting uncontested threes from everywhere, so I was quite pleased to be only down by seven.
“We got ourselves down double-digits once again in the fourth, but hung around and closed it out well in the end.”
This Saturday, the Dragons face a much tougher test, when they take the long trip down to Solent Kestrels, in Southampton. The Kestrels have been the leagues strongest team over the past three seasons and very few teams have managed to take points from them. But with the confidence gained from their last four games, who knows what may be possible.
Bradford’s next home fixtures are on the 11th and 12th of December, at their new home of Calderdale College’s Inspire Centre. The club are offering an opening weekend special offer, for online bookings, of just £5 for entry to both games (£5 per game on the door). There will be live music and commentary provided by ‘The voice of basketball’, Mike Shaft, and there will be a selection of food and drink to purchase at the venue.
Photographs © Alex Daniel Photography