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Breakers, Taipans win to stay alive

By Chris Pike
31 January 2014 12:42AM EST

THE New Zealand Breakers and Cairns Taipans have both beaten teams in the NBL top-four on Thursday night to keep their respective playoff hopes well and truly alive.

While the night began with the Breakers dominating the fourth-placed Sydney Kings at Auckland's Vector Arena to win 105-87, it finished with an overtime thriller at the Perth Arena with the Taipans coming away with a tremendous and crucial 99-94 victory over the league-leading Wildcats.

New Zealand's 18-point win over the Kings sees the three-time defending NBL champions improve to an 8-11 record on the season having now won two straight matches, and three of their last four.

Meanwhile, Cairns looked to have victory sewn up in Perth for much of the night before late heroics from Jermaine Beal saw the Wildcats force an overtime period.

However, with former Wildcats championship-winner Stephen Weigh and import Demetri McCamey coming up clutch, the Taipans managed to record the five-point victory to remarkably mean that Perth has lost two games inside the Perth Arena inside the last six days.

The win improves Cairns to a 9-11 record having now won three straight matches with both the Taipans and Breakers now breathing down the neck of the fourth-placed Kings who are only just holding on to fourth spot on the ladder with a 9-9 record at present.

The Thursday double-header of NBL action to begin Round 16 began with New Zealand dominating Sydney virtually from the outset on the way to an eventual 18-point triumph.

Scores were tied at 15-apiece after almost seven minutes of play before New Zealand began to work its way on top.

The Breakers went on a 12-4 run to close out the first quarter and then lead 27-19 at quarter-time.

The Kings did then manage to score the first six points of the second quarter to close the margin to just two points but the Breakers again steadied with the next nine points of their own to suddenly be leading by 11.

The Breakers lead then stretched out to as much as 19 points and that in fact was their lead at half-time.

Sydney then never looked likely of mounting much of a fight back in the second half with the Kings never getting closer than 14 points as the Breakers ran out 18-point victors.

It was a dominant performance by the Breakers from the outset with former grand final MVP Tom Abercrombie leading the way finishing the night with 20 points, five rebounds, two assists and two blocked shots including one that was emphatic on Sam Young.

Import point guard Kerron Johnson also had one of his better nights of the season for New Zealand with 17 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals on the back of shooting 7-of-14 from the field.

Import big man Gary Wilkinson also did well for the Breakers with 17 points, four boards and two assists on the back of shooting of 7-of-13 from the field.

Hard man Mika Vukona again was terrific as well with 15 points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals while Reuben Te Rangi added 14 points commentator-turned-replacement-big-man Casey Frank outstanding with 11 points, five rebounds and three assists in over 20 minutes of court time.

Sydney's NBA-experienced import Young did all he could trying to keep his team in the contest finishing with 29 points on 13-of-22 shooting from the field but too often he simply tried to play an isolation game taking on several New Zealand defenders while forgetting his teammates.

Ben Madgen also worked hard for the Kings finishing with 20 points on 9-of-15 shooting from the floor with second import Charles Carmouche adding 16 points and seven rebounds.

Big man AJ Ogilvy had decent numbers with 12 points, nine rebounds and five assists but he had a tough night at the office against the Breakers' bigs.

The action then turned to the Perth Arena with the Wildcats desperate to bounce back from their first home loss of the season last Friday night against the Melbourne Tigers.

However, the Taipans knew that this weekend with the Doomsday Double on the road against Perth and Adelaide, the league's top-two teams, could very well determine if they stay in the playoff hunt this season or not.

As a result, Cairns came out a team desperate to not start off the weekend on a losing note and looked all the world like victory was theirs for the taking for much of the season half.

The Wildcats had other ideas, though, and forced the game into overtime but in the extra period it was the Taipans who had the cooler heads under pressure to come away with the massive five-point victory.

Wildcats championship-winning player Weigh from the 2009/10 team led the way for the Taipans finishing with 21 points and five rebounds including a massive three in the dying seconds of the fourth quarter, and then crucial lay-ups and free-throws in overtime.

Cameron Gliddon also added 16 points and six assists for the Taipans with McCamey finishing with 14 points and Clint Steindl 13.

Another former Perth player Alex Loughton had some moments to forget late but still had 13 points, five rebounds and three assists while point guard Jamar Wilson was terrific before fouling out late in the fourth quarter with 12 points and three assists.

After hitting 13 first quarter points for the Wildcats, veteran forward Shawn Redhage finished with 27 points for the night on the back of shooting 11-of-16 from the field and 2-of-4 from three-point range.

However, it was star import James Ennis who top-scored with 32 points, eight rebounds, five assists and two steals while shooting 10-of-21 from the floor and just 3-of-9 from downtown.

Jesse Wagstaff also had a good night for Perth before fouling out late in the fourth quarter with 13 points and four rebounds, but perhaps most importantly taking three crucial charges that could have easily been called as blocks and given Cairns a potential six extra points.

Beal just scored 11 points while shooting 4-of-14 overall and 1-of-7 from beyond the arc, but he was a major reason why the Wildcats forced overtime at all.

Cairns did an outstanding job in the first quarter withstanding Redhage's 13 points to only trail by two at quarter-time and then the lead continued to switch hands for the first of the first half before the Wildcats went into the main break with a narrow 47-45 advantage.

By just over halfway into the third quarter, back-to-back threes from Gliddon put Cairns on top 60-55 and the visitors still led 66-62 going into the fourth quarter.

The Taipans then led by as much as nine points during the fourth period but the Wildcats wouldn’t go away.

An incredible dunk from Ennis as he ran back onto the floor from out of bounds made the margin just two points with under three minutes remaining but it took a three from Wagstaff to bring the home side to within a solitary point shortly after.

Again Cairns looked to have done enough when leading by six with a minute to go but a three from Ennis cut it in half before Weigh answered with a triple of his own for Cairns to bring the margin back out to four with 15 seconds left.

Beal managed to make the margin one when he hit a three and then with Loughton making just one free-throw, the door was left open for the Wildcats to force overtime and Beal was able to score a far too easy lay-up.

Perth got the first score of overtime through Redhage and then two free-throws to Ennis had the Wildcats leading 94-90, but they would not score again.

They had one more opportunity to tie scores up, but Ennis stepped out of bounds when he caught the pass from the sideline.

A three-pointer to McCamey, two free-throws to Weigh, lay-up to Weigh and a pair of foul shots from Steindl saw Cairns win 99-94.

Round 16 of the NBL will now continue on Friday night with the Townsville Crocodiles facing the Wollongong Hawks before on Saturday night, the Adelaide 36ers hosts the Cairns Taipans and then on Sunday, the Melbourne Tigers host the Perth Wildcats.

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