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R13 Report: Stout Snakes bury fourth-quarter demons

Shaun Bruce and Torrey Craig stepped up as the undermanned Cairns Taipans buried their fourth-quarter demons with a 73-66 victory over New Zealand on New Year’s Eve. With no Markel Starks (hamstring) or Stephen Weigh (knee soreness), Taipans energy man Craig provided the home side bigtime spark throughout, registering 21 points and 12 boards, and getting huge help from regular back-up point guard Bruce. Bruce’s 17 points was a career-high for the improving floor general, who simply outpointed the chronicled Cedric Jackson (eight points, six assists). Corey Webster led the Breakers with 24 points, while Charles Jackson posted a manful 16 points and 12 rebounds. The first term belonged to Craig who posted six points and eight rebounds in his first start as a pro. Taipans veteran Mark Worthington and Bruce kept the wheels turning in an otherwise stalled Snakes offence through the second quarter (11 points). The home side shot just 34 per cent from the field in the first half but New Zealand was worse, at a humbling 31 per cent. Webster (12 points) scored almost half of the Breakers’ total as they went into half time down 29-26. Charles Jackson and his Breakers came out of the rooms ready to strike, with Jackson (nine points on the quarter) powering one down among an 8-0 burst right out of the blocks. But the Snakes bit back to match the Kiwis stride for stride thanks to timely buckets from Shaun Bruce and hustle points from Worthington and Craig. “That fight, desire, that tightness as a group that they display at home – their next challenge is to show that on the road in hostile environments,” Taipans coach Aaron Fearne said post-game. “I think (Bruce) has displayed a level of professionalism from the first week he was here in Cairns, trying to be a better student of the game and being a pro.” Snakes captain Cameron Gliddon finally generated some noise among the sellout crowd, splashing a buzzer-beating three over Webster’s hand to close the third term. In ominous signs for the Snakes – who had blown large leads in their previous two games – Cedric Jackson swished a triple to open the quarter to get the Breakers back within one possession. But again, Cairns had answers when it counted as a five-point Breaker burst was met by a cold-blooded Shaun Bruce triple, taking their lead out to five with 4:18 remaining. New Zealand rode the hands of Webster and Cedric Jackson (who hit two triples in the final term), but Cairns got theirs from unlikely late-game heroes Craig and Bruce. “The score was the right total – it has been a grind of a game the couple of new year’s games we’ve played up here have been in the 60s and low 70s so defensively we did a decent job,” Breakers coach Dean Vickerman said. “The biggest thing for me was (Cairns’) intent to get to the foul line. We settled for too many jumpshots tonight and didn’t attack the rim enough.” The Breakers (now 11-7), who were without Thomas Abercrombie who flew back to New Zealand for the birth of his baby, are back on court at home against Adelaide next Friday, while Cairns (7-10) are back on Saturday in Sydney   CAIRNS TAIPANS 73 (Craig 21, Bruce 17, Worthington 16) NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS 66 (Webster 24, Charles Jackson 16, Cedric Jackson 8) BOX SCORE
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