Bradford Dragons entertained Reading Rockets on Saturday evening in the Dragons’ Den, at Calderdale College’s Inspire Centre.

And, despite trailing almost throughout the first half of the game, the home side roared back to register a valuable 87-84 victory in front of their own fans.

The previous meeting between the two sides, the reverse league fixture at the Loddon Valley Leisure Centre in Reading, back in October, had been won 79-71 by the hosts, who has since gone on to record an impressive eight wins from their 10 league fixtures prior to this meeting.

The Berkshire side also qualified for the National Cup Final, which was played out in Manchester the previous weekend.

In the final, the Rockets were beaten by second division side Milton Keynes Breakers, the same side that had knocked Bradford out of the competition the previous season.

That victory for the Breakers was an historic one, as they became the first side from outside of the top flight to win the tournament.

Saturday’s fixture was Reading’s first game since that defeat and they entered the Dragons’ Den determined to get themselves back on winning terms.

But despite them winning the ball from the tip, it was Bradford that put the first point on the board, Zion Tordoff sinking one of two free throws following a foul.

The slim Dragons lead was short lived however, as a layup at the other end put Reading in front.

Bradford struggled to get into any sort of rhythm and, three and a half minutes in, they had failed to add to their single point, with Reading moving 9-1 in front.

Albert Margai brought the Dragons back into the game by registering their next seven points, with two layups and a trey.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Albert Margai helped drag Bradford back into the game after a poor start.Albert Margai helped drag Bradford back into the game after a poor start. (Image: Luke Simcock.)

With three minutes of the quarter remaining, Ronald Blain sank his first two points of the game to level the scores at 16-16.

That was to be Bradford’s final contribution to the opening quarter, whilst the Rockets rebuilt their eight-point advantage, meaning the score stood at 24-16 to the visitors at the buzzer for the first scheduled break in play.

The second period started with a three for the visitors, which was quickly cancelled out by a further trey, this time from Andreas Lycoudis, who is still being nursed back into action following his two and a half year absence through injury.

Reading held the lead throughout the second quarter, fluctuating between being five and 12 points in front, but a couple of driving layups by Bradford’s Justin Williams meant that the gap remained at just eight points, 49-41 in Reading’s favour, when the two sides returned to their locker rooms at half-time.

The Dragons returned to the court with renewed vigour at the start of the second half, not for the first time this season, and just over two minutes after the restart, a three from Micah Savery-Richards pulled them within just three points of the Rockets at 51-48 down.

Margai then added a single from the foul line, following that with another trey to give Bradford their first lead since the opening play of the game.

Blain added another two to increase the lead to three points, before the visitors finally regained their mojo and the two sides sparred for the next few plays.

The mid-point of the quarter was decorated by a couple of fine threes from Reading to put them 59-56 ahead, and when they added a further two off the back of that, it seemed as though the tide had turned in the away side’s favour.

But the Dragons were not done yet and it did not take them long to level the scores at 61-61.

They edged the third quarter thereafter, and when the buzzer sounded, it was Bradford that held a four point advantage at 71-67 in front.

The final period failed to get going, with only four points, two for either side, being registered in the first four minutes of the quarter.

Then, a second technical foul for the Rockets’ head coach, Samit Nuruzade, saw him ejected from the Arena, leaving the visitors in the hands of his assistant, Matt Johnson. 

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Samit Nuruzade's ill-discipline did not help his team.Samit Nuruzade's ill-discipline did not help his team. (Image: Luke Simcock.)

Reading responded immediately, pulling back to within a single point through a trey, but the Dragons just managed to edge the remainder of the quarter.

It was a tight and tense denouement to proceedings, but Bradford saw the game out to claim that slim three-point win, with the final score reading 87-84 in the home side’s favour.

For the second successive home game, the Calderdale College Player of the Game Award went to Ronald Blain, who clocked up a 22 points and 11 rebounds double-double.

Justin Williams registered 17 points towards the winning total, while Micah Savery-Richards was just one behind with 16 points.

Albert Margai and Zion Tordoff also registered double figures with 13 and 10 points respectively, the latter also taking 10 rebounds to record another double-double for the Dragons.

Bradford face another fixture against the Rockets, although this time the City of Birmingham version, tomorrow, with an away trip to the Nechells Wellbeing Centre court.

Tip off time for the Dragons in Birmingham is at 7:30pm, against a side who got off to an impressive start to their first Division One campaign, including a win in the reverse fixture in the Dragons’ Den.

But their form has taken a dip in recent weeks and they now sit four points and two places behind Bradford in the league standings, with their play-off hopes starting to fade.

This win over Reading keeps the Dragons very much alive on that front, as they currently sit in the eighth and final play-off spot, two points ahead of ninth-placed Worthing Thunder.