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Wildcats take down Breakers at Blitz

Five Perth Wildcats scored in double digits as they took the 86-80 win over the New Zealand Breakers in Game 5 of the NBL Blitz at Townsville RSL Stadium. It was the complete team performance from Perth, who received contributions from every player except import Casey Prather who tweaked his ankle early in the night, registering just 3:46 of court time. Nathan Jawai and Jesse Wagstaff paced the Wildcats with 13 points, while tireless worker Greg Hire cleaned the glass (11 rebounds). Young gun Reuben TeRangi (17 points, six rebounds, three assists) gave Breakers fans an insight into his confidence levels after a quiet 2014/15 NBL season where he averaged just 2.5 points per game. In preparation for the return of superstar small forward Tom Abercrombie, Breakers mentor Dean Vickerman had Te Rangi playing multiple positions to ensure his minutes don't waver during the regular season. "We are experimenting with him at some point guard, which he did a little bit with the Tall Blacks," Vickerman said post-game. "He played across four positions tonight and for him to get the minutes to really take the next jump, that's what he needs to do right now. He needs to play over multiple positions. Mika Vukona opened the Breakers' account with a rare three while power forward Tai Wesley worked down low on Jawai en route to seven points, two rebounds and two assists in a six-minute first-quarter stint. Meanwhile, Perth were doing it as a team with eight individual contributors in the first 10 minutes. Knight showed the full arsenal with a soft touch and interior passing as he, Jawai and Tom Jervis (8/8 free throws on the game) made their presence felt in the paint through the second term. Charles Jackson continued his Blitz struggles with four fouls in 5:35 (registering a fifth in under nine minutes of game time) as Perth's bigs went to work, combining for 14/17 first-half free throws between Redhage, Jawai, Jervis and Knight. The 18-11 third term was a dour struggle as Perth put the clamps on a Breakers side missing the poise of point guard Cedric Jackson. Wesley was New Zealand's only source of offence with six of his side's 11 on the quarter, while Redhage made his mark with six points and three assists in the term. The fourth quarter was underscored by a battle between behemoth Nathan Jawai and up-and-comer Tai Wynyard, who last month committed to Kentucky University in the NCAA. Playing extended minutes (20:55) as a result of both Charles Jackson and Duane Bailey fouling out, the 17-year-old (12 points, six rebounds) made the most of his opportunity against the league's biggest paint presence. Te Rangi and former school teacher Shane McDonald ensured a frantic final few minutes, pegging the margin back to a single point with 1:13 remaining, but a dagger triple in the corner from Greg Hire extended it to a two-possession game with 19 seconds remaining. Perth assistant coach Adam Forde was encouraged with the win but says Friday night was more about the process. "The main thing, especially with pre-season is getting through our stuff, but there are individual-type agendas as well," he said. "We've got certain minutes with players coming off injuries, for example Jermaine (Beal) was limited to the first half and it we wanted to play 'x' amount of minutes with Nate and Matt and bring them off." The Wildcats bagged 4.5 Blitz points on the night, while New Zealand managed 1.5 for a tied first quarter and winning final quarter. PERTH WILDCATS 86 (Jawai 13, Wagstaff 13, Redhage 12, Knight 11) NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS 80 (TeRangi 17, McDonald 16, Wesley 13) BOX SCORE
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