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NBL 2014/15 Round 1: Jackson, Breakers stun Wildcats in Perth
Cedric Jackson marked his return to the NBL with an emphatic performance to lead the New Zealand Breakers past reigning champions Perth on opening night.
Jackson was superb in the 80-70 win, finishing with a game-high 22 points on 8-of-11 shooting, adding five boards and five assists in the process as his side left the hostile Perth Arena with a huge upset win to kick-start their season.
The visitors shot out of the blocks to take a 23-9 lead midway through the first term on the back of Jackson (7 points), while Rhys Carter (9 points, 3-3 FG) and big man Alex Pledger both came off the bench to inject some energy, with the latter coming up with some big defensive plays.
As Perth steadied it was Jackson who again got the game back on the visitors’ terms, nailing a big three-pointer to extend his side’s lead to 20 points with 6:51 to play in the second quarter.
The potent Wildcats’ offense was lacking fluency and their defence was missing its usual intensity despite the sell-out home crowd of 11,000-strong and their 2013/14 championship homecoming.
The end of the first half saw a 23-point halftime lead to the Breakers as the Wildcats finished with just 26 points in 20 minutes of basketball, while shooting just above 30% and allowing their opponents to go at much closer to 50%.
A response was always going to come, and the third term saw Perth pick themselves off the canvas and come roaring back into the match as DeAndre Daniels (19 points, 6 rebounds, 3 steals) found his feet in his first NBL match.
An Ibekwe unsportsmanlike foul on Shawn Redhage soon after the main break saw the tide turn and a Daniels dunk on the ensuing possession cut the margin to 14, but a Reuben Te Rangi (10 points) three-pointer and a Jackson and-one eased the pressure as the Breakers regained control in the form of a 20 point lead with less than 15 minutes remaining in the contest.
However the home side came again, with Daniels and Tom Jervis getting busy at both ends to reduce the deficit to just 12 points at the final break as the home fans found their collective voice.
A Daniels three-point bomb with just over four minutes on the clock sent the home crowd into a frenzy as the Breakers’ lead became eight, and as the margin continued to shrink it seemed increasingly likely that the Perth juggernaut were going to run home better and claim the unlikeliest of victories.
However, with 90 seconds to play it was again the masterful Jackson who blew past three Perth defenders, spinning to the rim for the two before a Te Rangi block and breakaway dunk at the other end sealed the result with 30 seconds to play.
Carter (14 points, 7 assists) was superb off the bench for the Breakers and Mika Vukona (7 points, 10 rebounds) worked tirelessly all night in the paint.
Redhage (20 points, 7-9 FG) was a shining light for the ‘Cats and Daniels enjoyed a strong second half but the likes of Jermaine Beal (12 points, 2-17 FG) and Matt Knight (3 points, 3 rebounds) had nights to forget in a rare home defeat.
The Breakers will head home and welcome Adelaide next Friday night, while Perth will try and bounce back when they host Wollongong.
New Zealand Breakers 80 (Jackson 22, Carter 14, Ibekwe 10)
Perth Wildcats 70 (Redhage 20, Daniels 19, Beal 12)