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R9 Report: Champion Breakers execute late, down Crocs

The reigning champion New Zealand Breakers put together a near-perfect fourth quarter on the road on Saturday night, executing their way out of trouble in an 86-75 win over the Crocs in Townsville. The win makes it five from their past six games as they maintain pressure on the ladder-leading Melbourne United, while Townsville has shown signs of a season revival after splitting results on the round. The Breakers’ usual suspects ran amok on Townsville’s hardwood, led by improving bigman Charles Jackson (22 points, 13 in the first quarter), who put some real hurt on both rims. Cedric Jackson (13 points, six rebounds, seven assists) set the table for the visitors – who shot 54 per cent from the field but just 41 per cent from the foul line (13-31) – and Thomas Abercrombie (19 points, seven rebounds) showed his all-court skillset, while scoring sensation Corey Webster netted 17. Townsville, propped up by Jordair Jett (15 points), Clint Steindl (13 and five rebounds) and Nick Kay (12 and five), were energetic throughout the night but were simply outclassed when it mattered. After a dominant victory over Cairns on Wednesday, the Crocs came out conceding four easy lay-ups in as many minutes through poor containment of penetration and pick-and-roll. The two Jacksons were in the thick of things early for the visitors, with Cedric dissecting Townsville’s defence with surgical precision and Charles making it work both on the block and off the good play of his point guard. “One of the things I think I’ve improved on over the three years (coaching tenure) is just making sure that our loads are right. We took a good rest period after that Perth game to get ready,” Breakers coach Dean Vickerman said post-game. “I thought we were pretty smart with the way we managed ourselves to get ready for this one tonight.” Trailing 28-15 at quarter time, the Crocs did themselves no favours with a five-turnover second quarter but the visitors failed to convert, going 3-11 from the foul line in the first half. Cedric Jackson (nine-point, four-assist first half) had earned an early spell, subbed out in the shadows of half time after splitting at the foul line. But that’s when the Crocs bit. In the 58 seconds between Jackson checking out and the main break, a 13-point lead became seven when Clint Steindl (13 points, five rebounds) and Mirko Djeric hit from behind the long line. It was part of an 11-0 run that had the Crocs within one possession early in the third, becoming a two-point lead when Corey Maynard hit just before the final break. Neither side set the scoreboard alight in the fourth until New Zealand, helped by the hustle of veteran Mika Vukona, hit six of their final seven field goal attempts to execute their way out of a sticky situation. “Cedric Jackson was just outstanding; he led the team from the front and closed the game,” Crocs coach Shawn Dennis said. “You can almost guarantee they’ll be around when it counts. “We need to go and watch how New Zealand closed the game out and learn from that. The best way to learn is to watch teams who do things the right way.” The Crocs (now 5-11) are in action next at home on Thursday against Adelaide, while New Zealand (9-5) is at home to Sydney on Friday.   NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS 86 (Charles Jackson 22, Abercrombie 19, Webster 17) TOWNSVILLE CROCODILES 75 (Jett 15, Steindl 13, Kay 12) BOX SCORE
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