Basketball: Breakers send series back to Perth for grand final decider

By Kris Shannon

A sold-out North Shore Events Centre enjoyed the Breakers' nail-biting win over rivals Perth. Photo / Getty
A sold-out North Shore Events Centre enjoyed the Breakers' nail-biting win over rivals Perth. Photo / Getty

Breakers 72
Wildcats 68

A dynasty that began with an epic three-game series against Perth will culminate with the same on Sunday.

The Breakers' search for a fifth Australian NBL title is heading back to Western Australia after tonight levelling their grand final series with a pulsating win over the Wildcats at the North Shore Events Centre.

Corey Webster, whose long-range shooting helped lift the Breakers to the playoffs, eventually saw off a tenacious opponent with a huge three as the clock counted into the final 20 seconds.

Despite leading the defending champions in scoring this season, Webster was perhaps an unlikely hero after making only one of his first 11 shots of the evening. But, the ball well outside the three-point arc, the shooting guard connected to essentially clinch the contest.

"I didn't even think about it," coach Dean Vickerman replied when asked whether he wanted Webster shooting in that spot. "I was just like, 'I hope that goes'.

"That's him - he can miss 10 shots and still maintain his confidence...he always thinks the next one's going in."

Webster's dramatic intervention - which followed a similarly pivotal triple from Tom Abercrombie - helped the Breakers move within one win of providing Vickerman with a perfect farewell.

In what will be the coach's final outing with the club, the Kiwi club will on Sunday aim to upset Perth in the post-season for a fourth time. Considering that run began with a three-game showdown against the Wildcats in the 2011 semifinals, it's only appropriate for Vickerman's tenure to conclude in similar circumstances.

And the manner in which they sent the series to a decider was equally fitting. The Breakers built their reign on the back of two core principles - defence and rebounding - and it was success in those facets that allowed the champs to triumph tonight.

Facing a 1-0 deficit following Wednesday's opener in Perth, the Breakers' suffocating defence hardly made for the most flowing of spectacles, but that was just the way they liked it.

Limiting Perth to 31 points in the first half saw the home side hold a six-point lead at the major break, an advantage boosted to double digits in the third. But Perth's lack of offensive fluency soon spread and, with two minutes to play, the teams were locked level.

An unseemly grind of a game suddenly gave way to a shootout as Jermaine Beal - who led all scorers with 20 - and the Breakers' key men battled to decide a defensively-focused tussle.

Abercrombie's triple with 1.09 on the clock came courtesy of a canny pass from Cedric Jackson, as the point guard completed a strong all-round game with 13 points, nine rebounds and eight assists.

And then the stage was set for Webster. The Breakers' season has revolved around their shooting guard - a slow start while he was trialling in the NBA, a resurgence as he returned with a point to prove, a wane as a playoff place threatened to slip away.

So hanging onto a one-point lead and the season on the line, it was almost predictable Webster took the chance to atone for an ugly night.

"That's what shooters do," said skipper Mika Vukona. "You work with the percentages sometimes and it's going to go in sooner or later. It worked out well for us tonight."

Breakers 72 (Jackson 13, Abercrombie 12, Pledger 11)
Wildcats 68 (Beal 20, Wagstaff 13, Redhage 9)
HT: 37-31

- NZ Herald

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