NBL 2014/15 Round 3: Record start to the year for undefeated Taipans
They call it the premiership quarter for a reason and Cairns proved they are a true Championship contender after a 29-15 third term led them to a fifth straight victory in an 85-76 defeat over New Zealand.
The two Taipans stars who have earned Player of the Week were the game changers once again with Scottie Wilbeken adding 10 points in the third quarter while Stephen Weigh had 8.
Fast starts were the order of the day as Cairns began the first and second terms with 8-0 and 7-2 runs. Fatigue was always going to be a factor as both sides had played just five days ago but the Taipans came out aggressive in offence, assaulting the Breakers in the same way they had already dismantled Adelaide, Melbourne and Wollongong.
New Zealand were able to steady through the play of Rhys Carter (14 points on 4-6 three point shooting) and Ekene Ibekwe (15 points, 5 rebounds) whose energy off the bench was palpable. A 13-4 rebound advantage in the first term gave New Zealand a quarter-time lead before they extended the margin to six by the main break.
Cairns’ third term start was the most brutal as they reeled off a 17-2 streak and importantly, they did not allow the Breakers back into the match after that run. The pace of Wilbeken was breathtaking and Weigh’s movement off the ball already has him in perfect synch with his point guard. Cam Tragardh was also devastating under the rim, making a number of tough shots in the lane to break the back of New Zealand.
A flopping technical at the beginning of the final term assessed to Cam Gliddon looked as though it may trigger a Breaker revival as the home side turned the tables on Cairns, scoring the first 7 points. Mika Vukona hit his only shot of the night and Tom Abercrombie (11 points) tried to get his game going but the glimmer of hope was quickly snuffed out by some strong two-man action from Wilbeken and Matt Burston (4 points, 7 boards). Torrey Craig also played a nice cameo role in the final term, overcoming early foul trouble to have an impact with a monster dunk before stuffing Tai Wesley with a block at the other end.
In his 100th game for the Breakers, Corey Webster tallied a team high 16 points but the home’s side starting five were severely outplayed. Wilbeken had 24 points and 9 assists with 0 turnovers while Weigh shot 8-14 for a season high 20 points. 2 blocks apiece for Craig, Burston and Alex Loughton helped to flex Cairns’ defensive muscle as well.
The 5-0 start to the year is a club record for the Taipans and even more impressively, four of those victories have come on the road. Their balanced line-up continues to synchronise perfectly with nine players hitting the scoreboard. After starting the season 2-0, the Breakers have a chance to get back over .500 when they visit Wollongong on Sunday.
New Zealand Breakers 85 (Webster 16, Ibekwe 15, Carter 14)
Cairns Taipans 76 (Wilbeken 24, Weigh 20, Tragardh 10)
@ North Shore Events Centre