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Double delight for rejuvenated Bradford Dragons.

Bradford Dragons pulled off a double victory over the weekend, defeating Thames Valley Cavaliers (91-86) at the University of Bradford’s Unique Fitness Centre, on Saturday and then demolishing Manchester Magic (63-83) at the Manchester Basketball Centre, the following day.

In the reverse fixture against Thames Valley, in Uxbridge at the beginning of December, the Dragons had been ripped apart by the Cavaliers (90-115), going twenty-three points down within the opening five minutes. However, following last weekends victory at Team Newcastle University, morale within the Bradford camp was high.

The Dragons started the game at a high tempo, rocketing into an 8-1 lead inside the first couple of minutes. This spurred the visiting Cavaliers into an unanswered eleven-point streak, to put themselves in the driving seat (8-12). Matthew Armstrong bucketed a long range three to pull the game back to within a single point, however the Cavaliers maintained their lead, through to the end of the opening period, which finished at 16-19.

The Cavaliers extended their lead to eight points, early in the second quarter however a succession of threes from Bradford’s Rihards Šulcs and Rafi Saipe (x2), saw Bradford back ahead, three minutes in.
The visitors regained their lead, extending up to seven points, however the Dragons dug in and when the buzzer sounded, at the end of the half, the damage had been limited to just two points (40-42).

​Ricky Fetske sank a three-point attempt at the start of the second half, to bring it back to a single point; however, the Cavaliers surged ahead again increasing their advantage to nine points. Nevertheless, the home side would not let go and when the penultimate period ended the deficit was back to just two points (63-65).

At the start of the final quarter, Thames Valley once again stretched their lead, this time to six points. Fetske responded with a layup and then Allie Fullah sank both his attempts from the free throw line to bring the game back to where it was.

Fetske again made another layup and followed it up with a three and when Jermaine Laing then scored another layup, plus an extra point from the free throw line, having drawn a foul, suddenly the Dragons were six ahead (75-69).

​With the Dragons in the ascendancy, the visitors were forced to start drawing fouls in order to regain possession, however Bradford were clinical from the line and held out to take the spoils, 91-86.
Šulcs led the line for the Dragons, registering a double-double with 23 points and 11 rebounds, with Rafi Saipe adding another 19 points to the winning total. However, the University of Bradford Player of the Game Award deservedly went to Fullah (18 points, 11 rebounds), whilst Fetske was the third Bradford player to register the double-double, with 14 points and 13 rebounds.
​The following afternoon, the Dragons travelled across the Pennines to meet their old rivals, Manchester Magic, who have suffered a dramatic downturn in fortunes this season. Having been one of the leading teams in the division for many seasons, this time around they are firmly stuck to the bottom of the table. However, they had taken only their second win of the season, against fourth placed Derby Trailblazers, on Saturday and therefore their confidence was high going into Sunday’s fixture.

The Dragons set out their intentions early in the game, taking a thirteen-point advantage into the first break (14-27). However, Manchester came back strong in the second period and, with only three minutes of the half remaining, they had overturned Bradford’s lead and were ahead by two (33-31). Bradford, turned it back on for the last few minutes of the half, managing to get themselves back ahead and taking a five-point advantage back to the locker rooms (33-38).

The Dragons came out strong after the break, dominating the third period from start to finish and building up a commanding twenty-three-point lead (42-65) to take into the final quarter.

With the game all but won, Bradford coach, Chris Mellor, had the opportunity to give some game time to one of the clubs up and coming young players, Great Osobor and the young prospect grabbed the opportunity with both hands sinking a hattrick of layups to finish the game out with a twenty-point victory (63-83).

Fetske and Šulcs both recorded Double-Doubles again, with Fetske this time leading the scorers for Bradford (26 points, 13 rebounds), with Šulcs following up with 20 points and 10 rebounds.

Bradford remain eleventh in the league table; however, they are now six points clear of the relegation spots and only two points behind eighth and one of the coveted end-of-season play off spots.

Mellor commented on the weekend’s action, saying, “It’s two very important wins. I thought our defence was good in both games and our overall competitiveness was where it needs to be.”

Next weekend, the Dragons return to their normal venue at Bradford College, entertaining Essex Leopards on Sunday afternoon, with a 4:15pm tipoff.

Photographs © Donald Crabtree

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