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R9 Report: Breakers steal season series over 'Cats

The New Zealand Breakers celebrated their 200th home game with one of their best all-round performances of the season, beating the Perth Wildcats 99-78 at the North Shore Event Centre on Wednesday night.

The Breakers, coming off a loss last Friday night to the Wildcats, needed a win to secure the series and they did it at both ends of the court, keeping Perth to under 80 points for only the fifth time this season.

"When you give up 52 points in the paint in a game [referring to their loss last Friday night], that's a pretty glaring number," Breakers super-sub Alex Pledger said.

"We were a lot more physical. We talked about guarding Jawai, but I thought those guards did well to make him uncomfortable. I thought we stepped up to that  challenge."

Pledger came off the bench to score 11 points with seven rebounds, but the man of the hour belonged to popular Tennessee import Charles Jackson who easily surpassed his season average of 11.25 points per game with a mammoth  effort of 19 points and 12 rebounds to secure the double-double.

"He's really starting to find it," Breakers Coach Dean Vickerman said.

"He's able to protect the rim, he's the fastest big in the league. His attack on the offensive glass and his composure is just getting better. He rushed early on, but he's just getting better.

"He's a young energy, a raw energy which is infectious with the other guys. That was an amazing play on halftime when he came up with that rebound."

Jackson was the driving force for the Breakers which were trailing early in the second quarter, but thanks to some stout defence and a 7/10 shooting day for Jackson, the Breakers were able to withstand the strong start from Perth which led by 6 at one stage in the first half. 

"They [Breakers] got momentum in the second quarter," Perth coach Trevor Gleeson said. "We got loose with the ball, got suckered into some silly offensive fouls, or flops, might have to see the tape on that one. 

"When the foul count is 17-7 at half-time..."

Wildcats' big man Nate Jawai gave the visitors a strong inside presence with three early buckets in the paint, but he was held in check for most of the second half and Perth ultimatley missed his dominance inside the key. 

Perth relied mostly on Jermaine Beal, who high scored for the Wildcats with 22 points (5-11 from the three-point line), but the Wildcats were unable to find quality scoring from any other player. Matt Knight was the next best scorer on 14 points. 

Import Casey Prather scored 12 points off 14 shots and Gleeson was impressed with his improvement over the course of the season.

"He's been magnificent," Gleeson said. "He's team first mentality. I love him as a basketball player. Hopefully we'll have him for a long time. Its the halfway mark now and we want to keep improving."

Perth will be hoping for a better defensive effort when they face the Adelaide 36'ers on Friday night where they could be without leader Damian Martin who left the game holding his surgically-repaired mouth.

"Don't know [Martin's availability]," Gleeson said. "see when we get back home tomorrow. He copped one at the start of the fourth."

Perth will be banking on Martin playing against Adelaide as he is their leader on defence, which was clearly lacking tonight.

"Our defence was pretty bad. You're not going to win in this league when you allow 99 points," Gleeson said. "We have some work to do on that part of our game. Corey [Webster] and Tom [Abercrombie] were pretty good. We took shortcuts on their screens and you can't do that." 

Thomas Abercrombie was the Breakers top-scorer on 23 points after going 8-17 from the field with three three-pointers. Not to be forgotten, Corey Webster chipped in with 21 points thanks to some late three's which gave the Breakers an unassailable lead in the final quarter.

"Everyone got challenged at shootaround," Breakers coach Dean Vickerman said. "We talked about being soft, it's a word that doesn't sit right with this team. We were able to make the change tonight, credit to the bigs, they were outstanding. We knew we had to protect that area [paint].

"In terms of size, they're [Perth] probably the biggest team in the league and to do what we did tonight against them, there's no reason we can't do it to any other team. 

"Tommy [Abercrombie] had 12 shot attempts at halftime, he was aggressive and he made some tough plays to keep his score ticking over."

The Breakers now head to Townsville to play the Crocs this Saturday night.

NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS 99 (Abercrombie 23, Webster 21, Charles Jackson 19)

PERTH WILDCATS 78 (Beal 23, Prather 13, Jawai 11, Knight 11)

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