IT’S a situation that would not have seemed possible when Bradford Dragons got off to their best ever start to a National Basketball League Division One season with seven straight wins across all competitions.

But a drastic twist of fortune which has now seen six straight defeats - the latest of which was a 104-90 defeat at home to Derby Trailblazers – and only one win from their last nine sees them firmly entrenched in a battle against relegation.

It must be said that the sudden loss of American Point Guard Drexler Clark has been a significant factor in their downfall. However, the remaining players have also demonstrated their potential, not least by beating top of the league, Team Solent Kestrels, in the final game of 2018.

Perhaps that result played a part in Chris Mellor’s decision not to replace Clark before the transfer window closed at the end of January. Time will tell whether or not that is a decision he lives to regret.

The hard facts are that the Dragons now sit in 11th position, just two places and two points above the relegation spots.

The Trailblazers were the team that ended the Dragons unbeaten start to the season when the sides last met at the end of October.

The visitors recorded the opening score, a two-point layup from club captain Oli Stanley. Ricky Fetske quickly levelled for the Dragons but then a couple of quick scores from Tre-Shawn Wilford gave Derby the first clear lead. Bradford came back and with five minutes played the scores were level. The hosts just had the edge for the remainder of the first quarter, which they finished 22-20 up.

Derby then started to stamp their authority on the game and went about opening up a 40-32 advantage, with little more than four minutes of the second quarter remaining.

Bradford responded, including a three from Rafi Saipe, but Derby pulled clear again to lead 51-41 at the end of the half.

The third quarter was once again Derby’s, and with only 12 seconds of the penultimate quarter to play, Kayne King hit a three to put the visitors 20 points clear.

Rihards Šulcs responded with another three, just before the buzzer, but Derby went into the final ten minutes 80-63 up.

Bradford reduced the deficit to 14 points by the end as Derby went third in the table.

Šulcs led the line for the Dragons, hitting a game high 26 points and adding 11 rebounds to record yet another double-double this season. Rafi Saipe picked up the University of Bradford Player of the Game Award, contributing 18 points, four rebounds and six assists.

Coach Mellor said: “They (Derby) created a lot of easy opportunities with their defence, and we did a poor job of taking care of the ball. Some parts of our game were positive but we need to put four good quarters together.”

The Dragons now face a tough road trip to Reading Rockets on Saturday, before then starting a crucial period, with three fixtures against teams around them in the table – Hemel Storm (Home, February 23), Leicester Warriors (Home, February 24) and Team Newcastle University (Away, March 2).