Bradford Dragons 86 Team Solent Kestrels 83

CHRISTMAS came early for the Bradford Dragons, as they defeated the previously unbeaten Team Solent Kestrels in the Dragons’ Den, courtesy of a spectacular three-point buzzer beater by Rihards Šulcs.

The Kestrels had won 10 in a row in the National Basketball League, whereas the Dragons had suffered two successive defeats to Team Newcastle University and Thames Valley Cavaliers.

First choice point guard Drexler Clark has departed the club and Ricky Fetske (ankle) and Rafi Saipe were both missing for this clash.

This left the Dragons with a depleted roster of just seven players, making their prospects of a win against the table toppers even more unlikely.

The two sides traded baskets in an absorbing first period and the home side held the slightest of leads, 23-22, by the buzzer.

Joaquin Calvo's two-point lay up gave Bradford a 36-30 lead halfway through the second quarter but the league leaders soon edged in front.

With six seconds remaining, Šulcs unleashed a speculative attempt from the halfway line, with the shot somehow rebounding off the backboard and in to give the Dragons a 41-39 advantage.

Bradford’s confidence was soaring, and they raced into a 51-39 in the third quarter. Solent roared back though, and it took late efforts from Matthew Armstrong and Andreas Lycoudis to tie the game at 59-59 heading into the last 10 minutes.

The hosts started brightly in the crucial final quarter. Allie Fullah and Lycoudis hauled them 69-61 in front but Solent showed why they are league leaders, as they inched 83-80 ahead with 12 seconds remaining.

With just two seconds remaining, Šulcs hit a three to level the game and it looked as if five minutes overtime was inevitable.

Desperate to try and steal the win in normal time, a Solent player clattered into Šulcs on the halfway line and an infringement was called with one second remaining.

Lycoudis played the ball to Šulcs, who released his shot right on the buzzer and watched it fall cleanly into the basket for the winning three, sending the team and supporters into an absolute frenzy.

It was an unbelievable ending to an incredible game of basketball and Šulcs deservedly picked up the University of Bradford Player of the Game award.

His 30 points, 13 rebounds and five assists also earned him the National Basketball League’s Player of the Week award.

Lycoudis contributed 18 points for the hosts but all seven players chipped in with vital contributions during the match.

Bradford’s coach, Chris Mellor, enthused: “It was an excellent performance from everybody, with an absolute crazy finish.

“We defended and rebounded well, and I was pleased with our offensive tempo the whole forty minutes.

“It looked an impossible task to win in regulation time with just four seconds remaining, but Rihards had other ideas and that was just amazing.”

Basketball restarts again on January 5, with Bradford's first three fixtures of 2019 all away from home. Barking Abbey Crusaders are next up.