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Beal blasts Bullets to house-warming win

You don't crash a house-warming party… not when it's Jermaine Beal's house. After eight years in the NBL wilderness, the Bullets announced their return at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre on Thursday with a physical 72-65 win over the Perth Wildcats. And it was a familiar face that came back to haunt the Western Australians. Former Wildcat Beal had just two points at half-time. But with his new side reeling at 47-35, the sharp-shooting import exploded to life with 12 third-quarter points as the home side went on a 22-5 run to steal the lead. Beal finished with 14 points and was ably assisted by fellow import Torrey Craig (16) to lead their new side to a stunning win in their first game back in the NBL. Veteran Adam Gibson was instrumental in the run as well with five points and two critical steals to pilot the Bullets to a 59-54 lead heading into the final break. Former Iowa State NCAA player Jameel McKay proved there is life without Beal on the western seaboard, finishing with 18 points, seven rebounds and three blocks in his debut NBL match for the Wildcats. It gets better for Brisbane; with Australian Boomer and former NBA player Cameron Bairstow almost certain to return in Round 2 from a dislocated shoulder suffered at the Rio Olympics. The Bullets recruited well, with a good mix of experience, talent and youth, but it was apparent early that this unit will take time to gel. [ooyala code="5jZ2dhNjE654wXfmp986Youj97Au8tG7" player_id="d5b993422b3e4b5ebd61f9e19ca2a6a5" width="500" height="400" auto="false"] Four minutes in, Brisbane had managed to drain just one basket from eight attempts as they ironed out their offensive kinks – a basic inbound turnover and tame shot clock violation showed there is plenty of work ahead. Their hustle on the defensive end, though, kept them in the hunt as they scrapped with a Wildcats outfit known for their love of a grind. Perth had their own problems finding their own offensive rhythm, but did enough to take a 20-9 lead into the first break. The home crowd found its voice early in the second term as Craig stole the ball and broke away to jam it home. They lifted the roof seconds later when another Wildcats turnover allowed Craig to drain a triple and reduce the deficit to just six points. As the two teams traded blows the Wildcats turned on the razzle dazzle, with McKay slamming home a well executed alley-oop. But Brisbane matched them, with Gibson firing a pass down court for Shaun Bruce who lobbed it up for former Crocodile Mitch Young to rock the rim. Still, it was Perth who held the ascendency with a 40-30 halftime advantage. Brisbane coach Andrej Lemanis admitted the occasion got to his players in the early exchanges, but praised their ability to regain focus and claim the win. "We were anxious at the start of the game, and understandably so," he said post-game. "We started to work our way in and find our rhythm. "We ended up going on a 19-0 run and holding (Perth) ... to 65 points, which is a good sign." Perth coach Trevor Gleeson said the reigning champions were their own worst enemy on the night. "Our team, as a new team, still has to find its own identity," he said. "I thought we had an opportunity to put the game away in the third quarter. "But we weren't tough enough and we didn't play hard enough." BRISBANE BULLETS 72 (Torrey Craig 16, Jermaine Beal 14, Adam Gibson 11) PERTH WILDCATS 65 (Jameel McKay 18, Casey Prather 9, Jesse Wagstaff 7) BOX SCORE
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