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The NZ Breakers strengthened their grip on the Australian National Basketball League with a commanding win over arch rivals the Perth Wildcats in Auckland tonight.
The Breakers overcame a slow start to win 98-81 and extend their lead at the top of the table.
Point guard Cedric Jackson broke the shackles that Perth had placed on him earlier in the season to lead the scoring with 22 points to go with five rebounds, eight assists and three turnovers.
CJ Bruton claimed 14 and Tom Abercrombie's resurgence continued with 12.
But it wasn't just the stars that shone last night. The depth of talent in the Breakers surfaced again with the likes of Will Hudson, Leon Henry and Corey Webster contributing heavily. Webster enjoyed a career-high 14 points.
The victory, in front of 9155 at Vector Arena, took them to 18-3 for the season and crucially left second-placed Perth lamenting their fifth loss.
After being smashed on the boards in their first two encounters against Perth this season, the table-toppers crucially turned their fortunes on the glass around, leading the final count 37-26.
"When you play Perth that's an area of focus. After that first quarter, we did a much better job of that.," said coach Andrej Lemanis.
The victory also extended the Breakers' club record winning streak to 10.
But it was a mental victory as much as anything for Lemanis' double champions.
Both of the Breakers titles have come at the expense of Perth during two titanic finals series over the last two seasons. But this season the Wildcats have been the Breakers' nemesis recording huge wins in round one and eight.
Not last night though. The Breakers matched the hugely physical approach of the Wildcats and slowly found some rebounding dominance to lay the foundations for this victory. And after a cold start, their shooting heated up from all areas.
Wildcats captain Shawn Redhage praised the Breakers' performance and said his side's lapse in concentration in the second quarter handed the champs the momentum.
“They went to another level in the second quarter and we didn’t match it for about 10 minutes,” said Redhage.
“That gave them a lot of confidence, and when they’re moving the ball and getting up good shots, they’re a machine.”
These are again the two class sides of the competition and it wasn't hard to see why as the slick transitions meant a game played at lightning pace, particularly through the frantic middle stages as the Breakers grabbed control.
The Wildcats, on the back of some hot shooting from Shawn Redhage dominated the start, leaping out to 7-nil, then 14-2 before ending the first quarter 24-18 in front.
The Breakers couldn't enjoy a lead until the seventh minute of the second quarter when Daryl Corletto's three-pointer took them to 39-37. But they took control from there to head to the halftime changing rooms 52-42, having won the second quarter 34-18.
With Jackson heating up and Bruton finding his rhythm, the Breakers controlled the third quarter to extend their advantage by another 10 points to 81-61.
It was a cruise from there with the Breakers allowing the Wildcats no inroards.
NZ Breakers 98 (Cedric Jackson 22, CJ Bruton 14, Corey Webster 14)
Perth Wildcats 81 (Matty Knight 16, Jesse Wagstaff 14, Shawn Redhage 12)
Quarter scores: 1Q: 18-24; HT: 52-42; 3Q: 81-61; FT: 98-81
- © Fairfax NZ News