The Bradford Dragons made the long away trip to Reading Rockets on Sunday afternoon, where they ultimately lost out 79-71 in a closely contested battle at the Loddon Valley Leisure Centre.  

Still reeling from their home defeat against Thames Valley Cavaliers the previous week, the Dragons were dealt a huge blow in the lead up to the game, with the highly influential Jordan Whelan ruled out with neck and back problems. 

For Reading, this was their opening National Basketball League Division One game of the season, having had a week off on the previous weekend, due to their only being 13 teams in the division this term, following Team Solent Kestrels withdrawal during the close season.

With a near capacity crowd enthusiastically cheering them on from the bleachers, they were hungry to get their season off to a winning start and opened the scoring.

But Joe Buchanan responded and then landed a trey to give the Dragons an early 5-4 lead.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Joe Buchanan takes instructions on board from his head coach Chris Mellor last weekend.Joe Buchanan takes instructions on board from his head coach Chris Mellor last weekend. (Image: LS Media.)

In a fairly low-scoring quarter, it took until the final 38 seconds for Reading to regain their lead.

But, with just seven seconds on the clock, Justin Williams popped up with a two to send Bradford into the first scheduled break ahead 17-16.

A disappointing start opening two minutes of the second quarter for Bradford, full of missed shots and turnovers, led head coach Chris Mellor with his side now 24-17 behind.

Rihards Sulcs responded by bucketing a layup for the Dragons, which was then followed by a Williams trey, reducing the deficit to just two points.

The Rockets then raced into a 39-29 lead with 90 seconds to go before the buzzer, but a single from the line by Williams, followed by a two-pointer and an extra at the line by Buchanan brought the score back to a more respectable six-point deficit.

Tordoff and Buchanan put down the first four points of the second half, to bring the Dragons back within reach, but Reading soon moved the gap back to seven.

Williams sank another three for the Dragons to pull it back again and the two sides continued trading baskets from there.

When Jabari Edwards hit a trey, with just over half of the third quarter played, the Dragons were just 47-45 behind.

But with Bradford failing to add to their tally for the next couple of minutes, Reading once again increased their lead to double figures, moving 55-45 in front.

With only a minute of the quarter remaining, the lead was further increased and only a two point dunk by Tordoff kept the Dragons within single figures going into the final period at 59-50 down.

In a thrilling final quarter, Reading quickly increased their lead straight from the restart, but then the Dragons started to take hold of proceedings.

At the halfway point of the period, Edwards was fouled while shooting and the young Dragon turned his ankle on landing, leading to him being helped off court by his teammates.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Jabari Edwards' injury came as a blow to Bradford and they will hope he recovers quickly.Jabari Edwards' injury came as a blow to Bradford and they will hope he recovers quickly. (Image: LS Media.)

Buchanan stepped up to take the two penalty shots on his behalf, and sinking both from the line, the Dragons were now just 63-61 down and right back in it.

However, the next five points went the way of the hosts, giving them a seven-point advantage.

The Dragons reduced this to four, before a run from Powell saw it extended their advantage to 73-64 with just over three minutes of play remaining.

Buchanan then sank his second trey of the game and after Sulcs followed that with a successful layup, the difference was once again back to just four points.

Reading scored a layup for some breathing space, but Williams again pulled the points back, this time from the foul line, leaving his side just 75-71 behind.

With only a minute on the clock, Bradford needed possession and gambled on fouling to send Reading to the line.

It did not pay off, as Reading sank both attempts, and then when Sulcs turned the ball over on the next Dragons offensive, Williams had no option other than to foul his man.

That sent Reading to the line once again, from where they secured both points.

With just 13 seconds remaining, Jacques Misambu saw his three-point shot bounce back off the rim and with Reading picking up the rebound, they were content to let the clock run down and take the 79-71 win.

Justin Williams recorded the game’s high score with 27 points, while team mate Joe Buchanan registered 15 points towards the Dragons’ total.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: The prolific Justin Williams was the game's top scorer, as he claimed his usual high points tally.The prolific Justin Williams was the game's top scorer, as he claimed his usual high points tally. (Image: LS Media.)

Zion Tordoff picked up the only double-double of the game with 13 points and 11 rebounds.

Bradford return to Calderdale College’s Inspire Centre tomorrow, with the City of Birmingham Rockets making their first ever visit into the Dragons’ Den.

With Bradford searching for their first league win of the season and Birmingham looking to exact their revenge on the Dragons for their defeat in the KitKing Trophy quarter finals, this one is set up to be one of the most exciting matchups yet.

The game tips off at 6:15pm and supporters are encouraged to purchase their tickets in advance via the club website.