Bradford Dragons won a thrilling KitKing Trophy quarter-final match up away to the City of Birmingham Rockets on Saturday evening, taking an 85-82 victory to book their place in the last four of the competition.

The Rockets are one of this season’s newcomers to the top-flight, however they qualified for the quarter finals with a 100 per cent winning record in the group stages.

Any doubts regarding the Birmingham sides credentials were quickly dismissed in the opening minute of the game, as they raced into a five-point lead.

Zion Tordoff put the first points on the board for Dragons, making his layup and at the same time drawing a foul to send him to the line for an extra point (5-3).

During the next three minutes of play the Dragons failed to add to their score and that contributed to the Rockets establishing a 21-16 lead by the end of the first quarter.

Straight from the restart, Jordan Whelan sank a trey to reduce the deficit to just two points but then another barren spell saw the home side extend their advantage to 30-19.

A couple of quick layups, again by Whelan, followed by another from Micah Savery-Richards brought the Dragons back into contention but, by the time the buzzer sounded for half time, the home team had stretched their lead back out to 10 points and were 48-38 ahead.

Halfway through the third period the Rockets found themselves 58-44 in front and looked good for the win. 

However, Bradford were not in the mood to give in and slowly but surely they clawed their way back into the game. Baskets from Whelan, Tordoff, Rihards Sulcs and Savery-Richards contributed to a stirring fightback from the visitiors and by the time the buzzer sounded, they were just 61-58 behind.

Into the fourth and Jabari Edwards brought the game to within a single point and although Birmingham responded immediately, Ricky Fetske hit straight back for Bradford.

Joe Buchanan then hit a trey to give the Dragons their first lead of the game. He followed that with a two-point layup, before another three pointer from beyond the arc. 

Just before the halfway point of the final quarter, Whelan made his layup to put the Dragons 73-64 in front, an incredible 23-point turnaround from the same point in the previous quarter.

Birmingham refused to go away and clawed their way back into contention. With just 90 seconds of play remaining, they had brought the sides back to within a single point, and only trailed 82-81.

In a chaotic finale, Savery-Richards  turned the ball over to give Birmingham the opportunity to take the lead, but they took the ball out of bounds to give possession back to the Dragons.

With Birmingham needing to score they were forced to foul, sending Edwards to the line for two shots. But the wall of noise from the enthusiastic home crowd proved too much of a distraction and he missed both attempts. 

Birmingham picked up the rebound but then at the other end of the court were called for an offensive foul. From the line out, Sulcs was released for a sprint to the basket, where he was successful with his layup.

Behind by three, a Birmingham trey attempt bounce doff the rim and as Tordoff picked up the rebound he was immediately fouled, sending the Dragons forward to the line.

The crowd played their part once more and, just like Edwards before him, Tordoff missed both shots. But then Birmingham saw another three point attempt bounce back off the ring.

Tordoff collected the rebound only to be immediately called for an offensive foul. 

With time running out, the Rockets coach called a timeout as they chose to go for a three to level the scores, but once again the ball didn’t go in and Fetske picked up the loose ball for Bradford.

The inevitable foul followed, and once again the distraction from the crowd contributed to another double fail from the line.

Back at the other end, Birmingham had one final chance, but this time the ball was turned over and the Dragons kept possession for the final seconds to secure the 85-82 win.

Whelan headed the Bradford scorers with 18 points, closely followed by Tordoff on 17 points.

The Dragons are joined by Reading Rockets, Derby Trailblazers and Hemel Storm in the draw for the Semi Finals.

This coming Saturday (October 7), National Basketball League Division One gets underway and the Dragons host Thames Valley Cavaliers in their opening game.

Tip-off is at 6:15pm and supporters are encouraged to pre-book their tickets via the club website.