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Impressive wins for Bradford Dragons' men and women
Bradford Dragons' men snapped their four-game losing streak with an impressive win over high- flying Tees Valley Mohawks in vcars.co.uk Men's Division One on Saturday.
Both teams started the game well as easy transition baskets were found in the opening exchanges.
Dragons, however, capitalised on Tees Valley's offensive focus by putting up 23 points in the first quarter, enabling them to open up a three-point lead.
Bradford continued strongly in the second period as they increased their defensive intensity, primarily on the perimeter and extended their advantage to 11 points by half-time.
A refocused Mohawks side took to the court in the third period and went about narrowing the gap.
They stepped up their defence, forcing Dragons into numerous ball-handling errors which led to easy scores for the team from the north east.
By the end of the third period, Bradford's lead was down to just seven points but in the final quarter a dominant Dragons produced a series of highlight plays on their way to amassing an impressive 32 points, claiming a 96-78 win.
Bradford's scoring was led by Rihards Sulcs with a season-high 35 points, while the Mohawks were indebted to Jorge Ebanks with 23 points.
Bradford Dragons' head coach Chris Mellor was chuffed with his team's performance, saying: "Even though we've suffered a few setbacks lately, we knew we were playing okay but just not closing games out.
"I was really pleased with the way we withstood their comeback in the third quarter, regrouped and pulled away again.
"It became a very open up and down game with a lot of mistakes and easy baskets for both teams but it's a good win against a talented team."
Dragons will again face Tees Valley Mohawks on Sunday but before that the Dragons meet local rivals Leeds Carnegie on Saturday at Bradford College, Trinity Road, BD5 0JE.
Bradford Dragons' continued their vcars.co.uk Women’s Division Two North title push with a 62- 46 win over Sefton Starlights, runners-up in this division last season.
Following a delayed start due to a preceding sports hall booking, both teams warmed up for their first match-up of the season.
Dragons immediately stepped up to the challenge, with Isalie Bloemen opening the scoring.
Nadine Adu (Sefton’s top scorer in four of their six games this season) quickly answered but on the back of some great team defence, Bloemen and Vilma Jurgaityte pushed the score up 15–6.
Sefton’s Jess Ross and Amy Whitehead capitalised on Dragons' end-of-quarter lapse to bring the game back to within two points at 15–13.
Sefton continued their momentum into the second quarter, taking a 16-15 lead but defensive changes, plus baskets from Bloemen, Laura Moloney and Rosie Pearcy, helped Dragons regain control.
The visitors' mid-range shooting, plus Dragons failing to maximise upon great reads and opportunities, again brought Sefton back into the game at 26–26.
But, following a timeout, with two minutes remaining in the first half, both teams had the opportunity to take advantage of each other’s defensive mistakes, but it was Pearcy and Moloney who hit their shots to put the Dragons 32-27 ahead at the break.
Both teams made the most of the ten-minute rest to re-focus, and Dragons were given the challenge of scoring 60 plus while keeping Sefton under 44.
In trading baskets and stops, Dragons gradually built up their lead to eight points until Sefton’s player-coach Ruth Cass and Leanne Haldane made it into a three-point game at 39–36.
Dragons' Aleksandra Mazjakina picked up her fourth foul early in the third quarter, and with only three points was having a quiet game until hitting a huge three-pointer to maintain the advantage at 42–38.
Going into the final quarter, both teams were still in the game but in reality Dragons' team defence and shooting was just warming up, with all five players working as one unit on defence, securing possession after possession.
Mazjakina hit 14 of her 20 points in this quarter alone to end the game as top scorer, helping to secure an important victory.
Dragons' coach Mark Gunn said: "This game was a huge step forwards, putting the pressure on Sefton, Bury and Mansfield (all on three losses) in the title race but our focus now turns to the England Basketball Women’s National Trophy final on Sunday against Northamptonshire Titans.
"We can take a lot of positives away from this game and, if as a team, we can put these into practice throughout the final then we will be able to once again step up to the challenge.“
Bradford Dragons then go on a four-game road trip, with the next home game being on Sunday March 10 against Mansfield Giants at Bradford College (1pm tip-off).
Elsewhere in the league, Sunderland City Predators (0-10) remained rooted to the bottom of the league after 91-54 loss versus Bury Blue Devils (8-3).
Bradford Dragons: Aleksandra Mazjakina (20, two of four free-throws), Isalie Bloemen (16), Vilma Jurgaityte (12), Rosie Pearcy (10), Laura Moloney (4), Natalia Laing, Lilita Smelina, Laima Smelina.