Bradford Dragons got back to winning ways against Derby Trailblazers in vcars.co.uk Men's Division One.
Derby got off to a bright start, with their star guard Martyn Gayle sinking a three-pointer on their first trip down the court.
Trailblazers continued to find scoring easy as they went on to put up 21 points in the first period. Bradford, however, were also successful offensively as they scored 17 points in reply.
The second quarter was dominated by Bradford’s Dut Malek, who piled on the points, hitting jump shot after jump shot in helping Dragons pour in 24 points in the second period.
Derby’s offence, however, started to struggle as the Dragons closed out on their perimeter shots, enabling Bradford to take a four-point advatnage into the half-time break.
A refocused Derby came out for the third quarter and immediately claimed the lead for themselves.
On the back of some great guard work from Nick Rose and Gayle, they were able to secure a two-point lead to take into the final period.
This sparked Bradford into life and they stepped their offence up several gears in the final quarter.
This led them to an impressive 31 points in the last ten minutes and a 88-78 win. Dragons' scoring was led by Malek with 20 points, while Gayle bagged 28 points.
Bradford Dragons' head coach Chris Mellor was pleased with his team’s performance, saying: “It’s an important win for us.
"We knew Gayle and Rose were the main threats but we did well restricting the rest. We stepped up defensively when it mattered and Luke Meakin and Dut Malek had excellent individual performances.”
This has pushed Bradford back up into the play-off positions as they look to make it into the post season.
They welcome Westminster Warriors to the Dragons' Den next Sunday. The game tips-off at 4.15pm at Bradford College Sports Hall, Trinity Road, BD5 0JE.
Bradford Dragons closed out their vcars.co.uk Women's Division Two North programme with a 74-70 home win against Bury Blue Devils.
Coming into the game, Dragons had already won the league title and secured a home draw in the play-off quarter finals but, as a matter of pride, aimed to finish the season with a win, especially as Bury Blue Devils had picked up a deserved 73-45 triumph against the Dragons earlier in the season.
Bury were coming into the game needing to win as they were fighting with Sefton Starlights for second place in the league and a place in the play-offs.
The Dragons took early control, with Natalia Laing and Isalie Bloemen sharing the scoring to take a 12-5 lead.
Bury’s shooting warmed up, however, bringing the game back to 12-12 but Mel Hills was quickly benched after committing three fouls and it was Dragons’ Aleksandra Mazjakina who finished off the first quarter with a last-second three-pointer to give them a 19-16 advantage.
The teams continued trading baskets in the second quarter, although the finishing was below par, but the Dragons built their biggest league of the game at 34-24, Bury making it 34-28 by half-time.
Both teams received reinforcements during the interval, with Dragons’ Steph Jones arriving for the game following work, plus Bury’s coach Nick Ibberson and several under-18 girls arriving to create a noisy atmosphere.
Bloemen opened the scoring in the second half but Bury’s sharpshooter Rachel Clayden hit back-to- back threes to initialise a comeback to 46-46.
With both teams unusually inconsistent at the free-throw line, it was a Vilma Jurgaityte treble for Dragons that created some breathing space as both teams exchanged missed opportunities in the ninth minute, with Bury only making one of four free throws and Dragons making one of two.
Bloemen opened the fourth quarter with a quick basket but Clayden once again hit a three-pointer to keep her team in the game, Bloemen, Jones and laing then scoring to open up a 59-52 advantage for Dragons.
However, Bury then went on a 9-0 run, including making all five free-throws, to lead 61-59 with three minutes remaining.
Mazjakina then mirrored Clayden basket for basket as Bury led 65-64 until Dragons' captain Laura Moloney hit successive baskets, including a huge three-pointer, causing Bury to call a time out when trailing 69-65.
With 78 seconds left, anything could happen but it was Dragons' defence that stepped up when needed to close out the game 74-70.
Dragons' coach Mark Gunn said: “This was always going to be a tough game against coach Ibberson’s programme that I have a lot of respect for and, regardless of a few areas we will need to focus on in training next week, this was a great win to propel us into the play-offs.”
Dragons scorers: Vilma Jurgaityte (17, including three from eight free-throws), Natalia Laing (16, 4 of 9), Isalie Bloemen (15, 1 of 1), Aleksandra Mazjakina (12, 3 of 3), Laura Moloney (10), Steph Jones (2), Rosie Pearcy (2), Lilita Smelina, Laima Smelina.
Elsewhere in the league, Sunderland City Predators lost 88-53 at home to Mansfield Giants and Sefton Starlights won 86-25 at home to Doncaster Danum Eagles.
This leaves second place in the league and a spot in the play-off quarter finals up for grabs for Bury (9-5 with one game remaining versus Sefton) and Sefton (8-4 with three games remaining, versus Bury and Sunderland, twice).
As this was the final weekend of the season for Women’s Division Two fixtures to be played (due to the play-offs starting next Saturday), it will be interesting to see how England Basketball responds this week to the nine outstanding games that could have an impact on other team’s final league positions and play-off places.
Bradford Dragons are therefore still awaiting their play-off quarter-final opponents to be confirmed on Saturday at Bradford College (6.15).
Elsewhere, Dragons' under-18 men secured an impressive 87-57 win over Killamarsh Derbyshire Arrows, but the under-16 boys returned empty-handed from Oldham, going down 67-59 against the Titans, and the under-14 boys' play-off push suffered a blow as they lost 68-60 in Doncaster against the Eagles.