UNDERDOGS Bradford Dragons, playing Leeds Force for the first time since the latter side joined the elite British Basketball League (BBL) three seasons ago, triumphed 87-68 in a pre-season friendly at Carnegie Sports Arena.

As is normally the case in matches such as these, both sides were understrength, with the Dragons missing point guard Marcus Gooding, who is stateside awaiting his visa.

Force, under new Finnish head coach Mika Turenen, took an early 9-2 lead but Ricky Fetske's bucket shot levelled matters at 11-11 and by the end of the first quarter they were 29-18 ahead.

The Dragons started the second period at a blistering pace, with Rafi Saipe sinking a three-pointer while being clattered, picking himself up to land the subsequent free throw.

But Force were always a threat and with five minutes of the first half left they had narrowed the gap to 39-34.

However, the visitors then scored the last nine points of the half – and the third quarter was similar, with Leeds closing to 51-45 before the Dragons opened up to 62-54.

With six minutes of the match left and with Force trailing 72-58, Turenen called a time-out – but Bradford had the momentum and finished 19 points clear.

Saipe scored 28 points, Fetske 19 and Jermayne Laing 16 in what should prove a confidence-boosting win before the National Trophy fixture at home to promoted Team Newcastle University on Saturday.

Bradford included 6ft 7in Oliver Hylands, signed from Leeds Force and reunited with Dragons coach Chris Mellor, against their derby rivals.

Power forward Hylands has had two previous spells with the Dragons and has returned to them after four years away.

He said: "I am really excited to be back. Bradford was my first National League club and Chris was the coach that first gave me a chance ten years ago, despite me being incredibly inexperienced."

Tip-off at the Dragons' Den (Bradford College Sports Hall, Trinity Road) on Saturday is 6.15pm and advance tickets are available via Bradford Dragons website.

The sides met last season in the National Cup, with the Dragons winning 110-70, but Newcastle have recruited well in the close season and a stiffer test is expected.

Three days prior to facing Leeds Force, the Dragons had lost 89-84 against a USA Select team in their only other pre-season match, having led for much of the contest.