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R8 Report: Wildcats hold off Webster-led Breakers

The evenness of contribution across the board saw the Perth Wildcats hold on for an 86-80 win over New Zealand at Perth Arena on Friday night but Corey Webster never gave in despite being hobbled for the Breakers. The Wildcats took control in the second quarter and led by as much as 13 points in the second half, but the Breakers kept coming. Webster did hurt his lower leg late in the game, but that didn’t stop him drilling three huge triples for his team to stay in touch. In the end, the Breakers missed some gettable shots and crucial free-throws while the 'Cats executed more efficiently. A late floater from Shawn Redhage and free-throws to Jesse Wagstaff and Jermaine Beal saw the home team hold on for the six-point win. Webster was the game's top-scorer with 23 points on 9-of-15 shooting from the field and 4-of-9 from beyond the arc. Coach Dean Vickerman was happy to back his star to play through the pain. "He toughed it out. I was ready to take him out but he wanted me to leave him," Vickerman said. "He is on ice right now so we'll assess it and see how he comes up." Jermaine Beal top-scored for the Wildcats with 19 points and Casey Prather added 18 points before fouling out early in the fourth quarter. Nate Jawai had 15 points in a fascinating battle largely with Charles Jackson who had 11 points and seven boards for New Zealand. Tom Jervis contributed a double-double (10 points, 10 rebounds) for the 'Cats while Redhage delivered eight points and six boards. He especially stepped up late when Prather fouled out. The Wildcats also welcomed back inspirational captain Damian Martin who got through six minutes of court time. Coach Trevor Gleeson was proud of the grit the 'Cats showed to get the win. "We struggled there a little bit and weren’t as decisive as I'd like in the fourth quarter, but we were playing with some people with fouls and Casey fouled out so didn’t have much impact in the second half," Gleeson said. "We are still evolving but the guys played hard and tough, and we knew New Zealand was going to throw everything at us. It was a good win for us." Cedric Jackson threatened another triple-double for the Breakers with 15 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. Everard Bartlett added nine points, Tom Abercrombie seven and Alex Pledger six (seven rebounds). Vickerman was left to rue the missed free-throws late in particular. "We missed 13 free-throws. That's a big thing and it's something that has caused us problems all year and is something we need to keep getting better at," Vickerman said. "That's immediately one thing that we can fix. We haven’t been the best free-throw shooting team the last three or four years but we've always made them when it counted. When it counted tonight, we missed some of those." The Wildcats and Breakers have developed a terrific rivalry splitting the last six championships. Now this season the Wildcats lead the series 2-1 with a points advantage of one. The two teams have a return encounter on Wednesday at the North Shore Events Centre where the series will be decided which could be crucial come finals time. Perth remains second at 9-4 with New Zealand third at 7-5. PERTH WILDCATS 86 (Beal 19, Prather 18, Jawai 15) NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS 80 (Webster 23, Cedrick Jackson 15, Charles Jackson 11) BOX SCORE
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