BRADFORD Dragons made the perfect start to 2015 with hard-fought home victories against Manchester Magic in the National Basketball League and Kent Crusaders in a tense National Trophy quarter-final.

Impressive Manchester had won by 29 points at the Dragons' Den in September but there was no repeat as they went away 90-85 Division One losers.

Bradford built up a nine-point lead in the first five minutes but the visitors hit back strongly to be 23-18 ahead at the end of the first quarter.

A bizarre incident involving Magic coach Paul Middleton helped to turn a tough second period. With his team leading 35-34 three minutes before half-time, he received a technical foul for a comment seemingly made towards his own player.

After disputing the referee's call, Middleton then received a second technical foul and was ejected from the arena, leaving his team in the hands of assistant Tolve Bayher. The Dragons seized the moment and went into the locker room 47-40 ahead.

Manchester, still fuming over the incident, came out to make a point in the second half and scored ten unanswered points.

But Bradford responded with a run of their own to regain the lead before a collision at the end wall resulted in Nathan Ashley suffering a head injury, which finished his match.

The Dragons closed out the penultimate period with a 67-60 advantage and quickly increased their advantage to 17 points.

Manchester started to pull themselves back into the game as Chris McGrew, Rihards Sulcs and Miguel Lorenzo all fouled out but the home side had just enough left to make sure of victory.

American JP Davis top-scored for the Dragons with an impressive 35 points, while Sulcs added 15 and Lorenzo notched up a double-double with 11 points and 14 rebounds.

Dragons head coach Chris Mellor said: "Manchester hurt us on the boards and in transition during the first half. But I was happier with our effort after the break and we got ourselves in a strong position with a 17-point lead.

"Although they made a big run towards the end, we managed to keep our noses in front."

Sunday saw Bradford's first appearance in the National Trophy quarter-finals against a young Kent squad who have been one of the surprise packages so far this season, losing only once in the league.

The Crusaders led 20-15 and 35-30 respectively at the end of the opening two periods but the Dragons got their noses in front at 52-50 by the time the third quarter had finished.

Bradford hit top form at the start of the final period and put themselves in a strong position with a 64-52 lead.

But the Crusaders were not finished and, with only eight seconds left, the scores were tied at 73-73.

Davis hit the deciding basket with a second on the clock and, despite the visitors setting up one final attack, they were unable to make the shot, so Bradford reached the semi-finals.

Davis and Sulcs finished the game with 19 points each and captain Vance Silcott added 12.

Mellor said: "Kent were always going to provide tough opposition and it proved to be another very physical game. They led through much of the game but thankfully JP managed to hit the winner.

"It's been a good start to the year and sets us up for a semi-final at Leicester – but we've got lots to work on."

Leicester are the Dragons' next league opponents at Bradford College Sports Hall, Trinity Road, on Sunday (4.15pm).