Breakers win overtime thriller

By Kris Shannon

Cedric Jackson. Photo / Getty Images.
Cedric Jackson. Photo / Getty Images.

Sydney 94
Breakers 96

The Breakers tonight overcame the peculiar problem of having a week between games to win their 11th straight - but they needed some Cedric Jackson magic to do so.

The defending champions defeated Sydney 96-94 in an epic overtime encounter to prolong a winning run that has seen them pull away atop the Australian NBL.

Third-placed Sydney were the last side to beat the Breakers - almost two months ago to the day _ and they went agonisingly close to repeating the dose at the Sydney Entertainment Centre.

Sydney completed a controversial three-point play in the dying seconds to send the game to overtime, with Darnell Lazare putting back a deliberately-missed free throw from Corin Henry to level the scores. After Henry made the first foul shot, his second appeared to miss the rim - which would have ruled out Lazare's put-back - but the officials allowed it.

In overtime, the Kings again pulled level in unlikely fashion, but a hobbled Cedric Jackson stepped off the bench to deliver the game-winning lay-up with two seconds left.

It could have been over earlier but the Breakers were far from their best after an extended eight-day layoff since their destruction of Perth last week _ exactly what coach Andrej Lemanis warned of as his side is now back to playing just the one game a week.

Their winning streak was built on a hectic summer schedule, with Lemanis feeling the rapid run of games allowed the Breakers to play themselves into a steady rhythm.
Their cadence appeared a little off-kilter for much of proceedings tonight, though they hung tough against a determined Kings outfit which appeared to have destiny on their side.

If these sides meet again in April, Sydney have posed enough problems this season to be handled with care. Of course if they do meet again, in Jackson, the Breakers hold the trump card.

The American point guard, who won his fourth player of the week award for his efforts against Perth, may have earned his fifth in a game that all-but sealed his MVP case. He led the Breakers with 24 points, chimed in with 12 rebounds and seven assists in the latest of a long line of stunning performances.

A game with such a dramatic final act began with a dull first quarter in which the Breakers held control for long periods but failed to apply the finishing touch. The visitors' red-hot shooting of recent weeks went cold in the opening quarter as Sydney embarked on an 8-0 run to take a 17-14 lead into the first break.

After making almost half their attempts from deep in their last four games, the Breakers were patchy from beyond the arc in the first half and managed just three successes from 14 attempts. That inaccuracy enabled the Kings to head to halftime with a four-point lead despite being out-rebounded 21-13 by the Breakers.

The Breakers have shown on a few occasions during their winning streak they can be boosted by the halftime break, and they started the second spell tonight with an 8-1 run to retake the lead and hold a 63-59 advantage heading into the final period.

Sydney began the fourth the stronger side as the two teams took turns in front, and the game seemed destined to go to the final possession. After Lazare's heroics on that play, Sydney held all the momentum and quickly opened a five-point lead in overtime before the Breakers immediately hit back.

Jackson gave the Breakers the lead and Mika Vukona extended it, but the Kings refused to be conquered and a James Harvey triple tied it with four seconds left.

Enter Jackson, who again showed just why he is the best player in the competition.

Sydney 96 (Lazare 25, Henry 22, Madgen 17)
Breakers 98 (Jackson 24, Pledger 18, Corletto 12)
HT: 40-36
FT: 82-82

- APNZ

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