Bradford Dragons travelled to Uxbridge University last Saturday to face the Thames Valley Cavaliers and in a closely-fought encounter the visitors registered just their fifth win of the season.

The Dragons won a thrilling encounter 109-104 in order to keep a hold on the final berth for the end of season playoffs.

The teams last met on the opening day of the season, when in another close encounter, Thames Valley recorded an 84-78 win (78-84) on the Dragons’ home court.

Since then, the Cavaliers have only managed to pick up two more wins and sit just outside of the relegation zone, whilst Bradford have fared slightly better, with four wins leading up to this fixture putting them in that coveted eighth spot.

The game got off to a slow start, with two turnovers and six missed shot attempts before Rihards Sulcs finally broke the deadlock with two points from the foul line.

Jordan Whelan quickly followed up with a trey to give the Dragons a five point lead, and at the halfway point of that opening quarter a Ronald Blain lay-up further extended the away side’s lead.

Blain then added a three pointer to put Bradford 16-6 in front, but the home side were not giving in easily and reduced the deficit impressively to ensure they only trailed 26-24 by the end of the period.

At the restart, Bradford set about increasing their lead, but a resilient Thames Valley side managed to tie the game at 35-35 with just four and a half minutes to go until half-time.

That, however, was the trigger that spurred the Dragons on to a 13-point unanswered run and the visitors continued to build their lead, going into the interval 53-37 in front.

Four minutes into the third quarter, and the Dragons still had a 16 point lead at 66-50.

But then the home side started an eight point run of their own, at one point managing to move just 68-62 behind, before the Dragons managed to push their lead back into double digits.

In the final minute of the penultimate quarter, Zion Tordoff’s single from the line put Bradford 12 points clear.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Zion Tordoff's late third quarter basket looked to have put Bradford out of side, but Thames Valley kept coming back at their visitors.Zion Tordoff's late third quarter basket looked to have put Bradford out of side, but Thames Valley kept coming back at their visitors. (Image: Max Lomas.)

Yet a couple of further baskets from the hosts, coupled with two missed three-pointers by the Dragons, sent the sides into the final period with a mere seven points between them, Bradford leading 76-69.

Justin Williams calmed any Dragons nerves with a two-point floating jump shot at the start of the fourth quarter and Whelan then added a lay up to restore the away side’s double-figure cushion.

But the Cavaliers were not done yet and over the next couple of minutes, they pulled themselves right back into the mix, trailing just 80-77. 

Gradually, the visiting Dragons managed to pull away again and with just three minutes remaining, they held a commanding 99-87 lead.

But once again the home side fought back and with just 36 seconds of play remaining, there was only a solitary point separating the two sides.

Holding that precarious 105-104 lead, Blain again settled Bradford’s nerves with a successful lay-up and when the hosts then missed two attempts from the foul line, they found themselves in desperate need of possession.

That meant they gambled on sending Blain to the line for two shots of his own, but it did not pay off for them.

The American converted both of his attempts and it was game over, with the Dragons taking the 109-104 win.

An incredible 41-point tally from Blain, to which he added 14 rebounds and four assists, earned him the National Basketball League’s Player of the Week award.

Williams contributed 27 points towards the winning total, with Whelan being the only other Dragon in double figures with 11 points.

The action returns to the Dragons Den tomorrow (Saturday, January 27) for a 6:15pm tip-off against the fourth-placed Reading Rockets.

Tickets can be purchased in advance via the club website.

Reading arrive at Calderdale College fresh from their appearance in the National Cup final last Sunday, where they were beaten by second division side Milton Keynes Breakers, who become the first side from outside the top flight to win the competition.