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Prather, Perth claim GF rematch

Casey Prather has muscled up and shown that he is ready to explode this NBL season, putting the Perth Wildcats on his back in a thrilling 75-73 win over the Breakers at Perth Arena on Friday night. New Zealand started strongly in the Grand Final rematch but once Prather caught fire in the second quarter the reigning champs took over and led by 11 at the half. It was all Breakers in the third and they led by four heading into the final term, but Prather again took control to lead the 'Cats to the four-point win. He was unstoppable getting to the basket with his combination of strength, quickness and athleticism. New Zealand had no answer for the improved import who finished with a career-high 29 points, five rebounds, four assists and four steals. Prather made a real focus to be more aggressive driving to the basket and was happy to see it pay off. “Coach did a great job telling me to keep the ball high when I drive to the basket so the little guards can’t come and rip the ball from me,” he said after the game. “I made an emphasis of putting the ball up there hoping it will drop, and if not, one of our bigs can pick it up. “I’m just here trying to learn this offence some more and learn when to attack and when not to. I’m still trying to get better. Any time I can score I [will] score, but anything my team needs I can pretty much do.” Jesse Wagstaff also had a big performance for the home side with 16 points. Kiwi Jarrod Kenny delivered nine points as the Wildcats celebrated the 350th club game of three-time championship winner Shawn Redhage. The Breakers fought hard but nobody really caught fire throughout the 40 minutes. Tom Abercrombie top-scored with 12 points, Kirk Penney added 11, Corey Webster nine and Alex Pledger eight to go with 10 rebounds. All of Akil Mitchell's seven points came in the second half while fellow import Ben Woodside contributed well with six points, six assists, four rebounds and four steals. Breakers coach Paul Henare was happy with a lot of the game, but said that second quarter was always going to make it tough. “We dug ourselves a hole in that second quarter. We did a good job of getting out of that hole but the damage was done in that second quarter,” he said. “I thought we were well balanced again with different guys stepping up at different times. That’s what I am asking of this team. We want to keep sharing the ball and keep looking for each other, and lock in defensively. “We held the Wildcats to eight points in that third quarter to get back into the game.” The Breakers came out executing sweetly with Abercrombie’s three-pointer and Penney nailing two of his own as the visitors opened an 11-3 advantage. Webster then entered and nailed another but the Wildcats had done well to stay in the contest until Prather took over. He scored Perth's opening seven points of the second quarter and was unstoppable moving to the basket. He had 14 points for the term and the 'Cats were in control leading by 11 at half-time. Things turned dramatically in the third quarter as the Breakers were able to shut down Prather and get things rolling offensively. They got back into the game with threes to Penney and Abercrombie, and by the time a 12-0 run was bookended with triples to Woodside and Rob Loe, the Breakers were back up by three. A strong three-point play by Mitchell gave New Zealand a 59-55 advantage heading into the fourth but Prather wasn’t done with yet. He smelled blood with inexperienced Breaker Isaiah Tueta bringing up the ball, picking his pocket twice as part of Perth's 8-0 run to open the fourth. That put them up by four but the Breakers soon tied things up and refused to go away. But Prather came up big in the last two minutes, and Perth held on in another thrilling chapter of one of the NBL’s most storied modern-day rivalries.   PERTH WILDCATS 75 (Prather 29, Wagstaff 16, Kenny 9) NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS 73 (Abercrombie 12, Penney 11, Webster 9) BOX SCORE
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