Bradford Dragons grab dramatic semi-final berth

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Nathan Ashley in action against Manchester Nathan Ashley in action against Manchester

Bradford Dragons battled through to their maiden English Basketball League Division One semi-finals appearance with an unprecedented double-overtime victory against Manchester Magic as the eventually won 104-94.

The Dragons were playing their final home game of the season and both they and Manchester saved their most spectacular basketball for the biggest stage.

The two sides could only be separated by two bouts of overtime after their players left everything on the court.

The biggest Dragons Den crowd of the season saw both teams show early nerves and it needed Bradford’s two Americans to make the difference as Chris McGrew and Dan Foley combined for nine points.

With the score 11-9, veteran Vance Silcott entered the court and added some additional strength to the home side. He pulled down a flurry of offensive rebounds leading to scores as the first quarter finished 18-13 to the hosts.

The Dragons held the lead throughout the second quarter but their opponents remained within touching distance and it was 36-32 at half-time.

Bradford began the third period with a six-point run to stretch their lead but the resilient Magic side were then sparked into life by former Reading Rockets giant Ryan Lohfink, who executed a three-point play.

The game was again balanced going into the final quarter with the score 51-47 but a three-pointer by Carl Pearson, a free throw from Nathan Ashley and a stylish dunk by Rihard Sulcs pulled the Dragons away to 61-54.

But Manchester showed fight to pull the game back to 62-62 and from that point the sides could barely be separated, with a 72-72 final score sending the contest to overtime.

Manchester were threatening to pull away but Ashley had other ideas and, with 17 seconds to play, he scored a three-pointer in off the backboard to extend the game for another five minutes.

This time Bradford made no mistake and although centre McGrew fouled out, his side booked the first final-four appearance in their 12-year history as Foley finished with a game-high 32 points.

Bradford now head for the semi-finals at the ABC Centre in Manchester next Saturday, then hopefully the final the following afternoon.

Meanwhile, the Dragons second team lost 88-49 to Bradford Lithuanians in the Leeds & District Premier League, while Bradford’s under-14s were beaten 91-48 in their last-eight tie at Brentwood Fire.

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