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R9 Wrap: Champions did what Champions do

The reigning Champion New Zealand Breakers are looking a scary prospect yet again, with two clinical wins in Round 9. Even scarier is the impending return of the League’s most proficient low-post scorer Tai Wesley. Meanwhile, Melbourne United are clinging to top spot for dear life. Up north, Townsville look to have reinvigorated their season and Cairns produce a landmark offensive figure on their home floor. New Zealand Breakers 99 def Perth Wildcats 78, North Shore Events Centre Looking to inflict New Zealand’s first home loss this season, things started well for the visiting Wildcats, up 31-25 at quarter time, and looking comfortable in the high-scoring scenario. But Thomas Abercrombie (eight of his game-high 23 points in the second quarter) would take over the second term in tandem with Mika Vukona who looked back to his devastating best with 11 points, 12 rebounds and five assists. Trailing by six at half time, Perth ground out a 16-15 third period but the League’s best bangers were bullied down low, losing the battle of the glass 44-31 and paint points 44-28. Perth were keeping in touch in the fourth, but four threes to Corey Webster (three) and Abercrombie (one) in 2:19 stretched the margin from seven to 19. Charles Jackson had 19 points and 12 boards, while Jermaine Beal was Perth’s only real danger man, finishing on 23 points, six assists and four steals. Matt Knight had 11 and 12 rebounds. BOX SCORE Townsville Crocodiles 90 def Cairns Taipans 76, Townsville Entertainment Centre Crocs coach Shawn Dennis issued a mandate of ‘no less than 20 shots’ to import Jordair Jett on Wednesday after reigning MVP Brian Conklin was released two days prior. Jett answered Dennis’ call with a game-high 26 points (12-22 FGs), five rebounds and four assists. Cairns did the St Louis alumni a few favours along the way, failing to both pick up the ball in transition and contain the pick-and-roll. After just 10 minutes the game looked all but over at 31-9 – which became 47-19 – before Mark Worthington, Shaun Bruce and Damon Heuir finished the half (53-27) with some face-saving buckets. Taipans stud Markel Starks sparked a third-quarter revival that cut the margin to 14, but coach Aaron Fearne benched his point guard at the 3:56 mark, resulting in a 7-0 Townsville run that instantly buried the visitors. Nick Kay (16 points, 12 rebounds) and Mitch Young (10 and 13) helped the Crocs win 50-30 in the paint and 42-29 on the glass, while Taipan Torrey Craig led the team with 18 points and seven boards. BOX SCORE Illawarra Hawks 102 def Melbourne United 87, WIN Entertainment Centre Rival clubs are fast learning that they can’t just go up and down with the NBL’s Golden State Warriors and expect to get away with it. Coach Rob Beveridge’s vision of becoming the League’s most dynamic scoring machine has come to fruition (league-high 91 points per game), with Melbourne United the victim of a 102-point haul on Thursday. While world-class combo guard Kevin Lisch stuffed the stats sheet (26 points, five rebounds, five assists, two steals), centre AJ Ogilvy took it to another level with 15 points, 12 boards (seven offensive), six blocks and four steals. The hosts, announcing themselves as title contenders, blew a seven-point game out to 25 in an 8:38 stretch either side of the break, but United pegged it back to four with 7:14 remaining on a Chris Goulding 8-0 run. Illawarra’ offence hit back in a big way with instant threes to Penney (25 points, five assists) and Rhys Martin (eight points, five assists in his first game this season) on their way to the W. Goulding had 25 and Daniel Kickert 21. BOX SCORE Cairns Taipans 101 def Sydney Kings 83, Cairns Convention Centre The Snakes needed to strike urgently to save their season and responded with ‘Taipans basketball’ of the highest order. Friday was the first time they had reached a century on their home floor since a 112-105 loss to the Wollongong Hawks on New Year’s Eve of 2008 – the NBL’s last season of 48-minute competition. Cairns import Torrey Craig (20 points, nine rebounds) injected some venom with eight points and five rebounds in the first half, and fellow American Markel Starks (18 points, five assists) followed, wowing fans with his quicks and flashy handle. Sydney reduced the margin to just three at the 5:16 mark of the third term but dropped their bundle with three of their 20 turnovers combining with two-of-nine shooting to end the period. Up nine at the final break, Cairns used the three-ball to expand it to 18 by the final buzzer. Kings Angus Brandt and Tom Garlepp had efficient 16s, but the hosts picked apart the Kings’ zone in a 52-24 paint advantage. BOX SCORE Perth Wildcats 90 def Adelaide 36ers 72, Perth Arena If NBL fans had forgotten why Perth call their home court ‘The Jungle’, they were given a firm reminder in the back end of Friday’s double-header. Brendan Teys and Corban Wroe thought they were WWE Superstars, Joey Wright was T’d up and bigman Nathan Jawai helped ignite a few spotfires throughout a dominant 40 minutes for the home side. There was plenty for the fans of physicality, while athletic specimen Casey Prather made sure the highlight reel had some polish with three alley-oops, including the best individual sequence of the year – throwing down a Jermaine Beal alley-oop, blocking Nathan Sobey’s shot onto the backboard and going aerial again via Beal; all in 15 seconds. Adelaide pegged an early Perth lead back to one midway through the second quarter but the style of game meant that the result was only going one way. Prather (8-18 FGs) scored a game-high 23, Jesse Wagstaff made all 10 free throws for 16 points and Matt Knight logged another double-double. Jerome Randle and Anthony Petrie led the Sixers with 18 and 17 respectively. BOX SCORE New Zealand Breakers 86 def Townsville Crocodiles 75, Townsville Entertainment Centre Champions did what champions do on Saturday night at The Swamp. Following Townsville’s uplifting 16-point win on Wednesday, New Zealand came into town and gave the young Crocs a lesson in sticking to a game plan. The Breakers made four easy lay-ups in as many minutes to open the contest, with Charles Jackson (13 first-quarter points) the beneficiary of most of the action. New Zealand point guard Cedric Jackson (13 points, six rebounds, seven assists) played Townsville’s defence like puppets throughout, while Thomas Abercrombie (19 and seven rebounds) and Corey Webster (17 points) got theirs. The Crocs did well to fight from 13 down at quarter time to take the lead late in the third, but New Zealand’s +11-point, 69 per cent shooting final term was the epitome of offensive execution. Turnovers cost Townsville (14), but it was all the visitors – their ability to get better shots indicative of the 13 per cent field goal disparity. Jordair Jett led the Crocs with 15 (6-16 FGs) and four steals. BOX SCORE Melbourne United 89 def Adelaide 36ers 86, Hisense Arena Down by eight points with 60 seconds remaining the Adelaide 36ers fought back in a final-minute flurry to have two shots at forcing overtime in the dying seconds. With 15 fourth-quarter points, including two cold-blooded threes in the 14 seconds prior, Jerome Randle (game-high 25 points, five rebounds, six assists) was off the mark with his pull-up triple while Adam Gibson missed his three off the ensuing rebound as time expired. Up seven at quarter time, 11 at half time and eight at three-quarter time, the ladder leaders looked in control for the bulk of the afternoon. Everything was running smoothly for United – Chris Goulding (19 points, six rebounds) had his swag established, Stephen Holt (14 points, seven rebounds, five assists) was efficient on his birthday and Hakim Warrick (eight fourth-quarter points) played the closer role – until the little man struck genuine fear into the 9,399 at Hisense Arena. But it was not to be for the visiting Sixers, who are fighting for fourth with Illawarra, while Melbourne extend their lead at the top. BOX SCORE Round 10 action sees another seven games, kicked off with Cairns at Illawarra on Wednesday. Adelaide is in Townsville and Melbourne is in Perth for a Thursday double-header, while Sydney has a mountainous task in New Zealand and Illawarra are back in Cairns on Friday. The round ends with Adelaide hosting Townsville (Saturday) and Perth in Sydney (Sunday) for the final ever game at Qantas Credit Union Arena.
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