Bulldogs Reserves travelled to face Clacton Cannons in their league opener, as they looked to build on their .500 record from the 2017/18 season, but didn't get off to the start they had hoped for in a 77-70 loss.
Travelling with only nine available players, the Bulldogs would lose both Johnny Ward to injury and Andreas Van Doorn to illness during the early stages of the second quarter, leaving the Bulldogs' bench down to just two reserves, while several players battled foul trouble.
In a back-and-forth first quarter, Bulldogs eked-out a 11-15 lead with seven minutes gone, only to be held scoreless in the closing minutes of the period as Cannons went on a 7-0 run. Going into the second quarter with greater urgency, the Suffolk side edged ahead 33-35 at the half behind a balanced offence.
The game unraveled for the Bulldogs in the third, as foul troubles left key players David Wise and Jay Trye rooted to the bench for an extended period of time, while Cannons upped the tempo and crashed the glass with gusto, blowing the Bulldogs out 30-12 in the quarter and taking control of the game.
Bulldogs clawed their way back into the game in the fourth, starting on a 9-4 run to cut into the lead, but missed eight free-throws in the fourth quarter alone which cost them dearly.
The veteran trio of Jay Trye (20), David Wise (16) and Glenn Collins (12) led the way for the Bulldogs.
"I said after last week that this club improves every time I'm down here, and I have the utmost respect for what the Cannons' coaches are doing to grow their club, and I'm not trying to take away from their performance - I realise they were missing some key players and had some injuries during the game too. They really deserved their win today." said Coach Arron MacDonald.
"This is always a tough place to play at, and when you then look at the players who were unavailable tonight: Neil Thompson, Jess Scott, Jack Collins, Ollie Barratt and Ash Read are all either starters, or core rotation players for this team. Oli Cowling has been moved into the first team too - so we're travelling down here without six players, all of whom we'd expect to positively impact this game."
"With all that being said, I have to take my hat off to the guys who pulled on the jersey tonight, they gave us every ounce of effort they had - it just wasn't enough. This game was decided by the same thing that generally decides U13 games - missed layups, giving up additional possessions and misses at the free-throw line."
"If you believe you can travel anywhere in this division short-handed, shoot 15/29 at the free-throw line and go scoreless for eight minutes in the third quarter and win - you're crazy. Between that and our failure to simply execute the same stuff we've been running for over a year now, it's fair to say we didn't get the result we wanted - but probably got the one we deserved. Even with all of that though, I felt like we were improving as the game went along and just ran out of time and bodies."
Coach MacDonald concluded "Having seen half of the division already across cup games, I think it's fair to say that the standard of play has gone up massively this season - there are going to be no easy wins for anybody - so it's essential that our players commit to the process of becoming the team we want to be, and that we get something closer to a full squad available for training to prepare for the upcoming fixtures - otherwise we're at risk of taking a massive step backwards this season."
Bulldogs Player of the Game was Jim Walker, whose committed defence and intelligent offensive play caught the eye, as the young guard made another mature performance from the bench.
Up next for the Reserve side is a trip to Brightlingsea Cossacks on Wednesday 24th October.