Taipans 71
Breakers 79

First the defending champions and now the league leaders - these Breakers are a different proposition on the road.

With an Ekene Ibekwe-inspired 79-71 win at the Cairns Convention Centre last night, the Breakers moved to second spot in the Australian NBL by grabbing their third victory across the Tasman.

That figure matches the number of Australian conquests the Kiwi club managed from 14 games in the previous campaign, and the identity of the vanquished this year has been equally impressive.


The Breakers (5-3) pounded defending champions Perth to open the season and, after edging Wollongong, they last night handed Cairns (6-1) their first defeat to move to 3-2 on the road.

Their record away from home was a point of pride during the championship years but, regardless of the venue, the Breakers' handling of the Taipans was a major boost to their playoff hopes.

After all, it was the same Cairns side that had dominated all-comers in the first month of the season, and the same Cairns side that beat the Breakers by nine a fortnight ago at the North Shore Events Centre.

But the Taipans were no match for a fast-starting Breakers side that led from wire to wire, shooting well from both the field (50 per cent) and beyond the arc (42 per cent).

The Breakers dominated the rebounding battle and, just when Cairns began to threaten in the third, the visitors calmly closed out the game in the final period.

A big contributor to that comfort level was the play of Ibekwe. The Nigerian international set the tone early, scoring five straight points at one stage and throwing down a vicious put-back dunk from a Tai Wesley miss, and he remained influential throughout.

Ibekwe finished with a double-double of 20 points and 14 boards, especially enjoying his night on the offensive glass. His efforts saw the Breakers lead by 15 at the major break and, while the hosts soon closed to within four, the Breakers quickly regained control.

Fellow import Cedric Jackson was another to excel, earning a measure of revenge after being outplayed by compatriot Scottie Wilbekin in the earlier meeting between the team. Wilbekin still managed 17 but Jackson had the better all-round impact, recording nine points, seven rebounds and a season-high 10 assists.


Corey Webster continued his consistent scoring campaign with 16 points, while Mika Vukona chipped in with 12 and five boards before fouling out late.

The Breakers will now look to continue their road form when they head down the Queensland coast to Townsville on Sunday, looking to complete a sweep of the Sunshine Swing.

Taipans 71 (Loughton 21, Wilbekin 17, Craig 13)
Breakers 79 (Ibekwe 20, Webster 16, Vukona 12)
HT: 50-35