Bradford Dragons faced a double-header of games last weekend, with an agonising defeat at Derby Trailblazers on Saturday evening, followed by a vital home win over Essex Rebels the following day

Those two results leave Bradford's hopes of reaching the eight-team end of season play-offs in the balance, but they will be almost there if they win at Team Newcastle University this Sunday (3pm tip-off).

Having led at the end of each of the first three quarters in Derby, the Dragons eventually went down 97-85 against the Trailblazers, but bounced back with a huge 102-66 victory against the Rebels.

The visit to third-placed Derby was the third meeting between the two sides this season, with Saturday’s hosts having taken the spoils in both of the prior contests.

They recorded a 91-66 home victory in the pool stages of the KitKing Trophy in September, followed by a closely-fought 87-85 win at the Dragons' Den in December.

The Dragons opened the scoring from the foul line, with Jacques Misambu hitting one of his two shots, following a foul by Derby’s Charlie Brown.

The two sides traded baskets for the next few minutes, before the Trailblazers took hold of proceedings and built a 16-9 advantage with just over seven minutes played.

But the Dragons were in no mood to roll over and not only clawed back the deficit, but took a 22-20 lead through Justin Williams just before the buzzer signalled the end of the first quarter.

Rihards Sulcs doubled that lead within seconds of the restart and then Jordan Whelan made it a six-point advantage with his driving lay-up.

And despite the home side's best efforts to close the gap, the Dragons matched them throughout the second period.

That meant Chris Mellor’s side took a six-point lead back to the locker rooms at half-time, at 50-44 in front.

After the break, Micah Savery-Richards layed-up to give the Dragons their biggest lead of the game.

But the Trailblazers slowly fought their way back into the contest and by the end of the penultimate quarter, the Dragons’ lead was down to a single point, as they led 68-67.

Whelan sank a three at the start of that final passage of play to restore a two-score advantage for Bradford, and the two sides tussled ferociously in the opening few minutes of the quarter.

But the game turned in Derby's favour when Whelan picked up his fifth foul of the game, consigning him to the bench for the final six and a half minutes.  

It was over three minutes after that dismissal before the Dragons were to add to their tally, by which time the Trailblazers had stormed ahead into an 11-point lead.

Despite Williams stopping the drought with two points from the line, it was not long before Derby had pulled further ahead to lead 94-77.

Williams did his best to close the gap, bringing it down to 12 points, and the game ended with a trey for either side as thhe hosts took a 97-85 win.

Unsurprisingly, the prolific Williams top scored for Bradford with a game-high 34 points, supported by Savery-Richards with 15 points and Whelan with 14 points.

The following afternoon, the Rebels entered the Dragons' Den for Bradford’s final home game of the regular season.

The two sides had only met a fortnight before, with the Dragons romping to a 98-60 victory on that occasion at the University of Essex Arena in Colchester.

Rihards Sulcs opened the scoring this time around with a two point lay-up, but the visitors soon edged into a 5-4 lead.

However the hosts quickly took full control of proceedings, finishing the opening quarter with a 30-17 advantage.

That already sizeable gap was doubled in the second quarter, with Bradford heading back to the locker rooms with a commanding 60-34 lead.

It did not get any better for the Rebels after the break, with the Dragons ending the third quarter with a massive 85-47 advantage.

With the game all but won, Bradford eased off in the final quarter, allowing their guests to cut the gap, albeit only by two, as the game finished 102-66 in the home side's favour.

Once again, Williams hit the game-high score, this time with 25 points, but the Player of the Game Award went to Jabari Edwards, who put in an impressive shift with 22 points, five rebounds, seven assists and two steals.

The Dragons next travel to the North East for that crucial showdown against Team Newcastle University.

Ninth-placed Newcastle are currently two points behind Bradford with a game in hand, which they will play tomorrow at home to league leaders Hemel Storm, who are still unbeaten.

The Dragons then have their final regular season game on Saturday, April 1 at second-placed Worthing Thunder, who have only lost three times all season.

On the same day, Newcastle visit rock-bottom Westminster Warriors.

However, it is not just a shootout between Bradford and Newcastle, with the middle of the table so tight at the moment that only the top three, Hemel, Worthing and Derby, have a spot in the play-offs currently.