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Breakers, Wildcats record NBL wins

By Chris Pike
11 January 2014 02:09AM EST

NEW Zealand ended Melbourne's winning run to remain in touch with the NBL's top-four while the league-leading Perth Wildcats returned to the winner's list on Friday night as well.

The three-time defending champion New Zealand Breakers started the Friday night NBL action putting on a superb last quarter to beat the on-fire Melbourne Tigers 93-87.

The night then concluded at the Perth Arena with both the Perth Wildcats and Townsville Crocodiles putting on an incredible shooting display, but it was the home team that proved too good winning 102-87 to put an end to a two-match losing run.

Heading into the clash at The Cage to open Round 13 NBL action, the Tigers had been on a run of six straight victories to be cemented in third position on the ladder and putting pressure on the top-placed Wildcats and second-placed Adelaide 36ers.

Even though the Breakers had lost four of their last five games, the majority of their triple-championship winning team remains and the eventual six-point win over Melbourne improved them to a 6-10 record on the season to only be narrowly behind the fourth-placed Cairns Taipans (6-9).

It was a tight affair for three quarters at The Cage as well with the Tigers leading by just four points at half-time and then two at three quarter-time, but it was in the final period when the Breakers took over and outscored Melbourne 30 to 22 to win by six.

Veteran tough man Mika Vukona was outstanding for the Breakers finishing with 17 points, 15 rebounds, six assists, two steals and two blocked shots as he proved to be a dominant force as the night went on.

Tom Abercrombie also had a terrific night for New Zealand with 21 points on the back of shooting 7-of-12 from the field and 4-of-5 from three-point territory.

Veteran sharpshooter Daryl Corletto scored 15 points as well for New Zealand on return to his former home court while point guard Kerron Johnson had 14 points, three rebounds and three assists.

Gary Wilkinson also had 10 points and seven rebounds for the winners.

Mark Worthington shot well for Melbourne with 10-of-14 from the field as he compiled 23 points, four rebounds and two assists.

The league's leading scorer Chris Goulding also finished with 23 points while Mustapha Farrakhan contributed 18 points and four rebounds with Scott Morrison adding 10 points and six boards.

The Perth Wildcats hit back from its first losing run of the season to beat the Townsville Crocodiles 102-87 in the first game at Perth Arena for 2014 on a night of the three-point bomb.

While the Wildcats comfortably won by 15 points, the game will be remembered for its incredible three-point shooting as Perth hit 16-of-27 from downtown and Townsville nailed 12-of-24.

Drake U'u didn’t miss from his four attempts for the Wildcats on his way to 12 points with Jermaine Beal hitting 4-of-7 in 20 points, James Ennis 3-of-6 in 29 points and Jesse Wagstaff 4-of-7 in 16 points.

Peter Crawford nailed 4-of-6 from long range in his 16 points for the Crocs with Todd Blanchfield hitting 2-of-3 in nine points and Steve Markovic 2-of-6 in 10 points.

Brian Conklin also had 15 points for Townsville and Josh Pace 10 to go with four rebounds and two assists.

Wildcats coach Trevor Gleeson was pleased with the unselfish way his team went about getting back on the winner's list.

"I was glad to see the extra pass being made and we got back to playing the way we were playing. We probably took the foot off the pedal in the second half, but we were able to get some good rotations into the guys ahead of the game on Sunday," Gleeson said.

"Guys making the extra pass led to guys getting wide open shots. Drake came on and really gave us that extra boost, Jesse was shooting well and we were playing team basketball. It's hard to guard five guys playing like that."

Crocs coach Shawn Dennis was frustrated that his team couldn’t stick to their plans for long enough.

"In the first quarter we did OK and then in the second they had two crucial runs where they hit a lot of three-point shots and it's frustrating that there are passages of play where we do the things we set out to do," Dennis said.

"But then we also have passages of play where we group four or five mistakes together and the better teams are able to make us hurt. That's what the Wildcats did – they hit four threes in-a-row in the second quarter to blow the game out to 17, and it's breakdown."

The Wildcats remain atop of the NBL with a 13-3 record but the pressure was beginning to come from underneath from second-placed Adelaide and third-placed Melbourne after Perth dropped its two last games on the road to Wollongong and Cairns.

It was a hot crowd at the Perth Arena of 12,050 to welcome the Wildcats back for a first home game since December 6 and their team didn’t disappoint with Gleeson mixing up his starting line-up after being unhappy with the efforts in the losses to the Hawks and Taipans.

The Crocs came into Perth on a four-game losing run and having not won in the city either at Challenge Stadium or the Arena since the memorable playoff victory in 2009 led by John Rillie and Corey 'Homicide' Williams.

Townsville did welcome back import Josh Pace, though, while Perth added Wagstaff and Greg Hire to its starting line-up at the expense of Beal and Shawn Redhage.

It seemed to work as well with Crawford's 10 points just about the only thing keeping the Crocs in the contest in the first quarter.

By half-time, Perth's lead expanded to 20 points and it grew to as far as 26 during the third quarter before the Crocs showed some good fight late in the period to close to within 16 heading into the last.

However, the Wildcats weren’t going to give them a sniff and cruised through the final quarter to run out 15-point with Ennis leaving the crowd with something to remember with an emphatic dunk over the top of Conklin in the dying minutes.

The two teams now meet in a return clash in Townsville on Sunday.

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