Bradford Dragons faced their first double header weekend of the 2023-24 season with two away fixtures in the KitKing Trophy group stage.

The Dragons beat Manchester Magic on Saturday evening 73-60 at the Manchester Basketball Centreto qualify for the last-eight, but then lost 93-76 the following day against Derby Trailblazers, meaning the hosts took top spot in the group.

Derby had edged out Team Newcastle University the day before to leave the latter with just one win from their three group fixtures, and with Manchester having already lost to both of them, the Dragons knew that a win on Saturday would be sufficient to see them through to this weekend's quarter finals.

The Dragons started Saturday’s game with real intent. 

Zion Tordoff won the ball at the tip off, and Justin Williams sank a trey from the game on the first offensive play.

This was immediately followed by Rihard Sulcs stealing the ball from a poor pass and sprinting down the court to make a layup, putting the Dragons five points ahead.

By the halfway point of the opening quarter, the lead was up to double figures, and by the end of the quarter, the Dragons were sitting comfortably with a 15-point lead.

Manchester managed to reduce the Dragons’ advantage by two points in the second quarter, with the scoreline at half time being 37-24 in the away team's favour.

The rest of the game was a fairly scrappy affair with neither team being able to assert their dominance on the game.

The penultimate period finished with the Dragons 53-37 ahead before Manchester closed the gap slightly before full-time.

That 73-60 success was enough to give the Dragons the win that they needed to secure their quarter-final spot.

For Bradford, it was no surprise that Justin Williams was once again their top scorer, with a tally of 17 points. He was closely followed by Jordan Whelan with 16 points and Micah Savery-Richards on 15 points.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Justin Williams was in typically good scoring form against Manchester Magic.Justin Williams was in typically good scoring form against Manchester Magic. (Image: Max Lomas.)

Sunday brought that showdown between the two sides that had an identical two wins from tworecord.

The winner of this fixture between Derby and Bradford would finish top of the group and claim a home fixture in the quarter-finals, whilst the loser would finish second and therefore travel away in the first knockout round.

Bradford took first blood in the game, with Sulcs laying-up for two on the first offence, after another successful jump ball for Tordoff.

After Derby hit back, Bradford’s Jabari Edwards restored the visitors' advantage.

From that point Derby took full control of the game and despite the Dragons making the last two scores in the opening period, the hosts held a nine-point advantage at the first scheduled break.

Bradford held the game much closer in the second period, reducing the deficit to eight points at the half time interval, going into it just 44-26 behind. 

But Derby soon reasserted their dominance to give themselves a big 20-point lead going into the final quarter.

With the game all but won for Derby, the Dragons continued to strive to reduce the deficit and when the game ended it was marginally down to 17 points, securing the home quarter final berth for Derby.

For Bradford, Jordan Whelan was the top scorer with 13 points, followed by Joe Buchanan (sponsored by Meryl Valentine) and Micah Savery-Richards with 12 points apiece.

The Dragons will now travel to the Midlands tomorrow to face newly promoted City of Birmingham Rockets in their quarter-final match.

Although this is Birmingham’s first season in the top flight, they are certainly not a team to be taken lightly, having already beaten established D1 sides Nottingham Hoods and Loughborough Riders in the group stages of the KitKing Trophy.

Meanwhile, Derby will host London Lions II in their quarter-final match up, whilst in the other two fixtures Reading Rockets have a home fixture against Essex Rebels and Hemel Storm welcome Milton Keynes Breakers.

The following Saturday, October 7, sees the start of the National Basketball League Division One fixtures and Bradford Dragons will be hosting Thames Valley Cavaliers in the Dragons' Den, at Calderdale College’s Inspire Centre.

Tip off for that game will be 6:15pm and the club are encouraging all supporters to prebook their tickets online, via this link, where an early bird discount of 20 per cent is available until 24 hours before the game.