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Taipans defeat Breakers in Blitz Grand Final rematch

A 105-100 overtime win from the Cairns Taipans has overshadowed the unlikely heroics of bit-part Breakers Everard Bartlett and Shea Ili. The full-strength Taipans continue to show why they were last season's minor premiers with more high-level execution in the clutch, but the real headlines were made by the journeyman Bartlett and 22-year-old point guard Ili. Bartlett netted 26 points on 10/16 from the field (6/10 3pt) with three rebounds and four assists, while Ili went off for 21 on 8/11 FGs after handed extra court time when Cedric Jackson did not return in the second half. "(Jacakson) felt something in his heel when he made that step-back (jump shot) at the end of the (first) quarter, so it's just not worth risking it," Breakers coach Dean Vickerman said post-game. "Bartlett has been really good this weekend; he's done it in the New Zealand NBL so it's not foreign to him. He has had a really good weekend. "It's hard to replace Corey Webster but he's coming in and doing a really good job right now. He's got a green light for us and when people get opportunities they excel." Vickerman also noted an improved contribution from import centre Charles Jackson who owned the paint all night (19 points, 16 rebounds) in over 35 minutes of game time after struggling with fouls earlier in the tournament. "We talked to him and said he was going to start. We just wanted to see 20+ minutes out of him tonight and we got a lot more than that," Vickerman said. "He's young and he took his time tonight, whereas we felt he'd rushed things a little bit in other games." The first quarter was one of the Blitz's best for points as New Zealand piled on 37 to Cairns' 26. The Breakers were burning Cairns in transition as their two Jacksons and 17-year-old centre Tai Wynyard took over the scoring. Much like Grand Final Game 2 last season, the Breakers shot out to an early lead which Cairns chipped back through 16-14 and 23-14 second and third quarters led by sharpshooting swingman Stephen Weigh. Bartlett, Ili and Cairns captain Cameron Gliddon bookended the final period, raising the pulse with early-quarter threes, but the best was yet to come as the two star Kiwis pulled back a five-point deficit in the final 40 seconds. The extra period opened with a pin-point Cedric Jackson alley-opp via Bartlett while Ili and surprise packet Shane McDonald hit back against Gliddon and Loughton triples to even it up at 100-100 with just over a minute remaining. Enter Markel Starks. The scoring point guard took charge in the final moments with a dagger three off Gliddon followed by a pair of free throws with the shot clock turned off. Cairns assistant coach Gordie McLeod was happy with the progress his side has made over the week after head coach Aaron Fearne conceded the Taipans were behind schedule due to injuries prior to the Blitz. "We have made good progress in the three games that we've had here," McLeod said. "When you add new pieces to a team it changes the whole dynamic, the chemistry and how the team operates. "We're moving in the right direction but we have got to make a lot more progress to get where we want to be, both individually and as a team." The win all-but seals the deal for Cairns as 2015 NBL Blitz champions, with United (who face Sydney on Sunday) the only other chance, needing 6.5 of seven possible Blitz points to tie. CAIRNS TAIPANS 105 (Weigh 22, Starks 20, Gliddon 18) NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS 100 (Bartlett 26, Ili 21, Charles Jackson 19)
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