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Magic bedazzle Dragons to advance to NBL Playoff Semi Finals

  Saturday, April 01, 2017

Manchester Magic used a hot shooting start and a controlled third quarter to defeat Bradford Dragons 87-62 in the opening round of Basketball England’s NBL Division One Play-offs.

Captain Jack Minister got Magic off to the perfect start, making four three-pointers as part of a devastating 18-0 run that shocked the visitors into an early time-out.

Basketball is a game of runs, and it was not long before the Dragons went on one of their own. The Yorkshire side punished Magic’s stagnant offence and lax defence to end the first half with a 20-4 burst, but the home team still led 40-35 at the break.

The third quarter proved decisive, with Simon Anumba coming back into the game after early foul trouble and reigniting Magic’s offence with his slashing drives and assured mid-range jump shots. Anumba scored 11 of his game-high 20 points in the third period.

Also instrumental was point guard Kayin Darbey, whose penetration created easy scoring opportunities for his team mates. He finished with 10 points, five assists and four rebounds.

Magic coach Paul Middleton commented: “Simon’s been great all year long. Rebounding, attacking the basket, just the little things he does, plus he’s one of our best defensive players. He was outstanding.

“I thought Kayin was unbelievable. He hasn’t really been a hundred percent – he’s still not quite – but I think he’s almost there now and you can just see the damage that he does. They didn’t guard him and he punished them for it.”

Big man Lee Goldsbrough also caused Bradford a variety of problems, as evidenced by his impressive all-round stats of eight points, 13 rebounds, eight assists and two blocks.

Having let a 20-point lead slip as low as five in the first half, Magic were not about to make the same mistake again. Stefan Gill took the reins in the final quarter, with the veteran guard providing composure and keeping the scoreboard ticking over until the result was sealed.

Magic ran out 87-62 victors and will face Team Solent Kestrels in next weekend’s semi-final, which will take place at the Amaechi Basketball Centre.

Middleton added: “Overall, I’m happy. That second quarter was disappointing, but at the same time they’re a good team offensively. They’re always going to give someone that kind of trouble in at least one of the quarters.

“There’s still stuff to improve on, especially defensively, but I’m confident, and the players should be. I think people are starting to step up at the right time, which is what we need.”

Report by Graeme Roberts

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