The Bradford Dragons faced a home double-header weekend and had the blow of a sorry Saturday softened by a super Sunday.

Following a 107-100 National Basketball League Division One league defeat against Essex Rebels on Saturday, they won their KitKing Trophy semi-final 80-70 against defending champions Hemel Storm 24 hours later.

A strong defensive performance on Sunday meant the Dragons qualified for a first-ever top-flight final in the club’s 22-year history.

Hemel have not been as dominant so far this season as in the past, having lost two of their five league fixtures so far and seeing a couple of their big guns join British Basketball League sides.

But it is still a talented group, who are once again expected to be competing for silverware at the business end of the season.

And when the visitors raced into an early 16-8 lead, Bradford could be forgiven for thinking they were in trouble.

But Micah Savery-Richards sank a two-point jump shot, followed by a brace of treys from the ever-reliable Justin Williams.

The American point-guard then added a further two points with a layup and the quarter ended with the Dragons having produced a fine turnaround to hold a 21-18 advantage.

An unanswered nine-point run just before the midway point of the second quarter put Bradford 37-28 in front, although Hemel had closed the gap to 44-40 by half-time.

The Dragons were sensational in both attack and defence in the first four minutes or so of the third quarter, racing into a stunning 58-42 lead.

But a determined Hemel once again clawed their way back into the contest, and were right back in it at 60-53 down by the time the buzzer sounded.

The final quarter got off to a slow start, with only a single point being scored in the first two and a half minutes.

Both sides eventually found their rhythm, but with Bradford increasing their lead to 13 points, Hemel were never going to be able to bridge that gap.

They closed the deficit before full-time, but not by enough, as the Dragons claimed an 80-70 success to secure their place in the final.

Williams was The Calderdale College Player of the Game, registering a game-high 33 points.

The Dragons will not find out who they face in the final until later this month, with the second semi-final, between Reading Rockets and Derby Trailblazers, taking place on Sunday, November 26.

That memorable win made up for the disappointment of Saturday’s home defeat in the league against Essex.

Bradford had won the last five fixtures between the two sides, but the Colchester-based side have recruited well over the close season and went into the game having won two of their three league games.

Although Rihards Sulcs put the first points on the board, Essex quickly ran up a six-point lead only for Bradford to hit back and reake the lead.

Ultimately, Essex had the better of those opening exchanges, and led 28-24 at the buzzer.

The visitors maintained their lead throughout the second quarter, extending it out to 11 points at one stage, and held a 48-41 advantage at half-time.

After the break, the game followed a similar pattern, with Essex seven points ahead by the end of the third quarter too, having once again increased their lead to double figures at one point.

But led by Williams and Joe Buchanan, Bradford edged 81-80 in front three minutes into the final quarter.

That lead did not last long, although the scores remained close right through to the dying embers of the game.

But with Bradford desperate to regain possession when behind late on, the Rebels were able to build from the free throw line and re-establish their seven-point gap, closing out the contest 107-100.

Zion Tordoff (18 points, 11 rebounds and three assists) and Rihards Sulcs (17 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and three steals) deservedly shared the Player of the Game award for Bradford.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: It was hard to fault the efforts of Zion Tordoff in the narrow defeat to Essex.It was hard to fault the efforts of Zion Tordoff in the narrow defeat to Essex. (Image: Max Lomas.)

Bradford will be playing another double header this weekend.

First, they face an away league trip to newly-promoted London Elite on Saturday, with tip off at the Capital City Academy taking place at 6:30pm.

Then, on Sunday, the Dragons entertain Second Division side Bristol Academy Flyers II in the National Cup, with a 4:15pm start time at Calderdale College’s Inspire Centre. 

In celebration of reaching the KitKing Trophy final, the Dragons are offering supporters the opportunity to get free admission to Sunday’s game.

Supporters have until midnight on Saturday to book their tickets via this link before they revert back to full price.