Bradford Dragons hosted Worthing Thunder in the Dragons’ Den on Saturday evening, the opening game of 2023 for both sides. In a closely fought contest, the South Coast side proved too strong in the final quarter, and returned home with the points, following a 75-83 point victory.
Worthing had led the table for the majority of the season, to date; however, two defeats just before the Christmas break had seen them slip down to third, behind second placed Derby Trailblazers and leaders Hemel Storm, who hold the only remaining unbeaten record.
The Dragons started the game strongly, with Micah Savery-Richards (sponsored by Milestone Design Ltd., Britain’s first producer of totally green Kitchens of Recycled Content) winning the tip and Dave Walsh scoring an opening three pointer within seconds of the start. Only three minutes into the game, the home side had already opened up a ten point lead (10-2), Jordan Whelan adding seven points to Walsh’s opening score.
Worthing temporarily pulled the scores back to within a single three point score but the hosts always had more in the tank and when Jacques Misambu sank his layup, with only fifty-eight seconds of the opening period remaining, the Dragons’ lead was up to double figures (22-12). Three seconds later, Misambu fouled Worthing’s Andre Arissol, sending him to the foul line where be converted both shots to end the quarter at 22-14.
Within 30 seconds of the restart, Worthing had reduced the deficit to just four points, triggering a Bradford response with scores from Whelan and Justin Williams pulling them back out to nine points clear (27-18). Gradually, the South Coast side fought their way back into the contest and, with just over three minutes to half time, the score was tied for the first time (32-32).
Crucially, the next score went the visitors way, a long range trey, again from Arissol and although the Dragons fought hard to recover, it was Worthing that held the lead, albeit by a single point (36-37) when the two sides returned to the locker rooms at half time.
Into the third quarter, and the two sides initially sparred with one another, almost point for point, with the lead swapping sides with swift regularity. However, half way through that penultimate period, the Dragons clicked into gear and built up a seven point lead (53-46).
With plenty of the quarter remaining there was still time for a Worthing revival and they gradually closed the gap, leaving their hosts with a single point lead to take into the final quarter (63-62).
It was that final quarter which proved to be the Dragons’ undoing. A side that had been full of energy and bounce suddenly appeared to lack movement and it didn’t take long for Worthing to put themselves firmly in the driving seat, opening up a six point advantage (65-71) within the opening two and a half minutes.
Dragons, however, kept themselves in the game, with Whelan putting up the next five points. But every time the home side closed the gap, the visitors seemed to have more in the tank and did just enough to keep the Dragons at arm’s length, and it was them that held an eight point lead at the final buzzer (75-83).
The game high score went the way of Bradford’s Jordan Whelan, who contributed 32 points, almost half of Bradford’s overall total. Whelan also registered 14 rebounds to record a double-double and was a clear choice for the Calderdale College Player of the Game Award.
American point-guard, Justin Williams added 18 points to the Dragons total and Micah Savery-Richards also scored in double figures with 11 points.
For the victors, Andre Arissol top scored with 20 points, backed up by Veron Eze with 18 points and Ronald Blain on 14 points. Also of note, Orlan Jackman registered a double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds.
The Dragons next face another tough home fixture next Saturday (14th January), this time against the unbeaten Hemel Storm, with a 6:15pm tip-off. Tickets can be purchased in advance via the club’s website.
The clubs under 18s had a more successful start to 2023, beating Teeside Lions by ten points (70-60) at Buttershaw Business and Enterprise College on Sunday.
Photographs © Max Lomas