NBL 2014/15 Grand Final Game 1: Carter, Breakers hold off Snakes to be on championship brink
|Dean Zardo||Mar 6, 2015|
New Zealand is on the brink of their fourth title in five years after an 86-71 win over the Taipans in Cairns in game one of the grand final series.
The win came despite a furied third term fight back from the home side and gives the Breakers home court advantage as they head back to Vector Arena with a chance to clinch the championship.
The visitors got off to a flyer early, jumping out to a 16-5 lead midway through the first term on a Mika Vukona basket to stun the home fans.
It didn’t take long for Cairns to find their feet, however, as they steadied and got their side of the scoreboard ticking over.
However it was New Zealand who had all the answers, with Cedric Jackson and Corey Webster leading the way for their side as they took a 28-17 lead into the first break.
The trend continued in the second stanza, with the Snakes unable to get any closer than nine points, and when Ekene Ibekwe jammed it home for the last scoring play of the half it was the Breakers who suddenly held a very healthy 16-point buffer.
Whatever Aaron Fearne said to his charges at halftime must have worked, with the game being turned on its head in the third quarter.
Cairns looked a completely new side, and led by Cam Gliddon, Scottie Wilbekin and Alex Loughton, the home side rallied to get back in the contest.
A 13-2 run in the middle stages of the term, capped by a Loughton three-point bomb, saw the margin reduced to a single possession, before it was trimmed to a single point at the three-quarter break.
The packed out gym had found its voice and suddenly it was the Taipans who looked like winners, taking all the momentum into the crucial final term.
A Rhys Carter three to open the final term momentarily put a dampener on proceedings, however, and two minutes later he was at it again, nailing another long bomb to extend the Breakers’ lead back out to nine and force a Taipans timeout.
Back-to-back threes from Loughton and Wilbekin were broken up by a basket to Tom Abercrombie with five minutes to play, with the margin at seven and the game still in the balance.
Suddenly the Snakes’offense went missing again at the most inopportune of times, with a Matt Burston bucket the only field goal they would make in the final five minutes of the contest, allowing the Breakers to pull away and run out comfortable 15-point victors.
Jackson showed why he has an NBL MVP to his name with a glistening performance, tallying 22 points and 7 boards, while Ibekwe (19 points, 8 rebounds, 8-10 FG) was a monster inside and Carter (12 points, 5-7 FG) was huge own the stretch.
For Cairns, Wilbekin led the way with 16 points and Gliddon finished with 13 points and 9 boards on 5-of-8 shooting.
The series now shifts to New Zealand for game two, with Cairns needing to steal victory to return home for game three next week.
Cairns 71 (Wilbekin 16, Gliddon 13, Burston 11)
New Zealand 86 (Jackson 22, Ibekwe 19, Abercrombie 13)
@ Cairns Convention Centre