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Dragons’ News

Trailblazers complete the clean sweep over Bradford Dragons and are crowned Champions.

April 10, 2024

Bradford Dragons travelled to the University of Derby on Sunday afternoon for their final fixture of the regular National Basketball League Division One season. The opposition, Derby Trailblazers, recorded the home victory (86-72), which was not only their fourth win from four games against the Dragons this season, but also crowned them as the 2023-24 Division One League Champions.

The two sides previously met just three weeks ago in the KitKing Trophy final in Loughborough. On that occasion, despite a fourth quarter rally from the Dragons, Derby took a fifteen point win (74-89) to clinch the Trophy for a second time. The reverse league fixture, in the Dragons’ Den last December finished with a sixteen point victory (80-96) for the Trailblazers, whilst in the Group stages of the KitKing Trophy, back in September, the gap was seventeen points (93-76) at the Clarence Wiggins Centre in Derby.

Sunday was never going to be an easy game for Bradford, with Derby needing to win in order to clinch the league title. Meanwhile, Bradford’s league position had already been decided, unable to improve upon their seventh spot, irrespective of the day’s result.

Zion Tordoff (sponsored by Bubbles and Barks Dog Grooming) won the jump ball at the tip-off; however, Ronald Blain (sponsored by Bliss Bakery Bakes and Positive Outcome Associates) missed his three point attempt on the Dragons’ first offence. The first five points of the game went in Derby’s favour before a couple of two pointers from Jordan Whelan (sponsored by Napoleon’s Casino and Restaurant, Bradford) brought the Dragons back to within a single point. But buoyed by their home crowd, Derby maintained their lead, extending it to eight points (14-16) with three minutes of the opening quarter remaining. Bradford fought back, and when Joe Buchanan (sponsored by Meryl Valentine) sank a trey, just before the buzzer, the gap was down to just four points (21-17).

Derby’s Charlie Brown opened the scoring in the second period with a long range three. This was quickly followed by a two from Ricky Fetske (sponsored by Vision Properties, Leeds). But three and a half minutes in, the gap had been further extended to thirteen points (34-21). The two sides traded baskets for the remainder of the quarter, and as the sides left the court at half time Derby remained thirteen points clear (45-32).

After the break, it took the Dragon’s over three minutes to add to their score, by which point the home sides lead had opened up to a massive twenty-two points (54-32). Whelan finally broke the drought for Bradford  with a driving layup. But halfway through the penultimate quarter there were no further scores from the Dragons and the Trailblazers were sitting pretty, twenty-six points ahead (60-34).

But then Bradford hit a purple patch and registered a nine point unanswered run, with scores from Rihards Sulcs (sponsored by Gio’s Italian Bar and Kitchen) and Blain. Derby then pulled back to twenty points clear, but scores from Micah Savery-Richards (sponsored by Milestone Design Ltd.) and Fetske reduced the deficit to sixteen (65-49), heading into the final period.

Again, Derby made the early running in the fourth quarter, taking the first nine points to open the difference out to twenty-five points (74-49). But again the Dragons fought back and at the midpoint of the period the gap was once again down to sixteen (76-60). But with under three minutes of play remaining, Derby had once again pulled further ahead, this time to twenty one points (84-63). However, Bradford had the better of those final minutes, pulling the scores back to within a more respectable fourteen points (86-72).

Ronald Blain registered the game high score, contributing 28 points to Bradford’s total.  Jordan Whelan was the only other Dragon to score in double figures, with 14 points, whilst Zion Tordoff was only player across both sides to register double figure rebounds, with a total of eleven, ten of which were at the defensive end.

With the regular season having now been completed the focus is now upon the end of season playoffs, which is competed between the top eight teams in the league table. The Dragons, who finished in seventh place, face a quarter final fixture at second placed Essex Rebels this coming Saturday. Essex won both games between the two sides in the regular season, but Bradford will be hoping to create an upset at the Essex Sports Arena in Colchester. Tip off on Saturday is at 6:30pm, and the winner will be rewarded with a home fixture in the semi-finals against either Hemel Storm or Loughborough Riders.

Photographs © Lauren Newham

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