BRADFORD Dragons were beaten 90-79 as they resumed their National League Division One campaign on the wrong foot at Derby Trailblazers.

The teams had previously met at the Dragons Den in October, when Bradford took the spoils 91-83 in the National Cup only to then be ousted by Loughborough Student Riders in the quarter-finals.

The latest encounter saw Derby gain possession from the tip-off and score on their first offence, Simeon Esprit sinking two points.

Bradford hit back immediately with a three from Eisley Swaine but then a couple of two-pointers by Matthew Ward-Hibbert put the hosts three up.

Moments later, the game was tied at six points apiece, but the Dragons could not stop the Trailblazers from pulling ahead again and while they managed to keep themselves in the game, the gap gradually widened.

By the time the buzzer sounded for the end of the opening quarter, the gap was up to nine points with Derby leading 25-16.

The Dragons enjoyed their best spell during the second period. A two from Rafi Saipe, which he followed up with a score from outside the arc, quickly reduced the Derby lead to just four points and although the hosts made the next basket, Bradford continued to carve into their advantage.

With four minutes of the quarter played, Bradford's home-grown guard Jermaine Laing sank his two-point jump shot to edge his side ahead – and while the lead swung back and forth, the Dragons were ahead by four going into the final three minutes of the half.

Ward-Hibbert bucketed a three to put Derby back two up with 90 seconds of the half remaining but into the final minute, Joaquin Calvo hit a three of his own to give Bradford a one-point lead.

Yet Leone Francis had the final say of the half, downing his jump shot to send the hosts back to the locker rooms with a single-point advantage.

Chris Mellor may have been the happier of the two coaches at half-time, with his Bradford side seemingly in the ascendancy, and straight from the restart they restored their lead with a quick two-pointer.

The game swung both ways throughout the opening minutes of the third quarter and, with five minutes played, Bradford had again edged ahead at 52-50 when Ricky Fetske laid-up for two.

But then Derby started to take a hold on the game, putting themselves six points ahead, and by the time the buzzer sounded for the end of the penultimate period, the gap was up to eight (66-58).

The home side took advantage of their possession at the start of the final quarter, with Ward-Hibbert hitting a quick three to extend their lead into double figures.

Saipe hit back with a three for the visitors but for every basket Bradford could muster, the Trailblazers had a response and with six minutes left on the clock their lead was up to 14 points.

The Dragons responded with seven unanswered points of their own from Fetske, Laing, Eisley Swaine and Rihards Sulcs to put themselves back in touch.

But in the end it was too big an ask of a tiring Bradford side and the hosts saw the game out to win.

Fetske led the Dragons scoring with 23 points, while also picking up ten rebounds to record a double-double. Swaine followed up with 16 points, while Saipe contributed 14.

Mellor reflected: "It was a close game much of the way but they got the one vital run, really, which sealed the game.

"Their key guys shot a better percentage than ours and defensively, in the second half, we weren't good enough"

The Dragons now face a match at third-placed Loughborough this afternoon.

The following weekend, the action returns to Bradford when Kent Crusaders will be the visitors to the Dragons' Den on Saturday, January 20.