Breakers 69 Wildcats 57

The unfamiliar reality of life without Corey Webster began for the Breakers with the most familiar of results: grinding out victory over the Perth Wildcats.

With the injured Webster missing his first game in an indefinite absence, the Breakers (8-9) tonight beat their arch rivals and leap-frogged them in the Australian NBL standings, emerging on top of an extremely ugly contest at Vector Arena.

"It was a terrible game, wasn't it?" said Wildcats coach Trevor Gleeson. "I kind of wish I was just in the boxes having a beer."

Indeed, while scrappy defensive duels between these foes are nothing new, tonight was particularly unsightly. Perth (7-8) were historically poor in the first half, scraping together a franchise-low 23 points, and their eventual total of 57 was their worst mark in more than 30 years.


But, while Gleeson was aggreived, Paul Henare understandably found beauty in the victory. Having given up an average of 88 points all season, the coach was especially satisfied with his team's best defensive effort of the season.

"Defence has been an area where we haven't be to our standards for the majority of the year," Henare said. "But we really contested everything and that was our aim coming into this game.

"I think a lot of it was effort and intent and having a real desire to stick to the game plan and work hard on every single play."

All that hard work ensured the Breakers will head to their Christmas break in far better spirits, having dropped five of their previous six coming into the clash, and they will be particularly pleased by overcoming the absence of Webster.

It was the shooting guard's senior teammates who helped the Breakers edge it. Kirk Penney and Alex Pledger led their side with 16 points apiece - and Pledger equalled a career high with six blocks - while Tom Abercrombie added a double-double in finishing with 15 and 11 rebounds.

But Henare was equally impressed with rookie duo Shea Ili and Finn Delaney, who brought energy and enthusiasm in increased minutes the bench.

"In this situation, when a guy goes down with injuries, other guys gets opportunities," Henare said. "Their opportunities were lifted by what happened this week and it was good to see them take ahold of it."

There's no denying the Breakers' opportunity for victory was enhanced by their opponents. The two teams were as bad as each other in the first quarter, displaying a level of offensive impotency that was encapsulated by their combined five-of-16 mark from the free throw line.


Perth, though, proceeded to plumb new depths in the second, enduring a painful five-minute scoreless spell as the home side enjoyed a 12-0 run. The Breakers deserved credit for restricting their opponents, taking total control of the rebounding battle and hassling Perth into needless turnovers, but Gleeson's expression made clear he thought his men were their own worst enemies.

By the time the second-quarter carnage was complete, the Wildcats had mustered just eight points in the period, heading to halftime shooting 24 per cent from the floor and 35 per cent from the line. And yet, even with such profligacy from Perth, the Breakers could manage only a 10-point lead.

Thankfully for the hosts, Perth initially appeared intent on making more history in the second half. By the time the Wildcats made their first field goal, four minutes into the third, the Breakers had jumped in front by 20.

And while Casey Prather finally ignited with 12 points in the period, pulling his side within eight heading into the fourth, the Breakers defence eventually did enough to seal a morale-boosting win.

Breakers 69 (K. Penney 16, A. Pledger 16, T. Abercrombie 15)
Wildcats 57 (C. Prather 23, J. Johnson 16, M. Knight 7)
Halftime: 33-23