Breakers storm back to take Adelaide 36ers

 

IAN ANDERSON

The New Zealand Breakers pulled off one of the most memorable comebacks in the club's history to increase their Australian National Basketball League league last night.

The two-time defending champions overcame a woeful first half that saw them trail 49-28 against the Adelaide 36ers in Adelaide to score a 71-66 victory.

The Breakers turned up the heat on defence throughout the second spell as the Adelaide players discovered how hard it is to score a basket when you have your hands wrapped around your own neck.

The hosts still led by 14 at three-quarter time, but then went scoreless for over six minutes as the Breakers stormed into the lead, thanks chiefly to the imported duo of Will Hudson and Cedric Jackson.

Back-up centre Hudson combined superbly with his point guard on the pick-and-roll late in the game to drag the visitors in front, while Mika Vukona was another key factor with his relentless aggression.

Hudson finished with 23 points and 11 rebounds - including seven offensive ballboards - in just under 24 minutes, and while Jackson wasn't at his best, shooting 7 of 20 for 17 points, he had seven assists, with the majority coming late.

The visitors had said prior to tip-off they wanted to impose their defensive pressure on Adelaide from the outset, but it was the hosts who dictated terms.

Breakers centre Alex Pledger picked up two quick fouls and when he went to the bench, the 36ers took full advantage of a number of mismatches inside through their twin towers of Luke Schenscher and Daniel Johnson.

The Breakers were wayward with their shooting from both long-range and close to the hoop, as a string of misses allowed Adelaide to get their transition offence into gear, with the visitors unable to muster the enthusiasm to stop them.

Coach Andrej Lemanis shuffled his line-ups to try and stem the damage, but the frustrations at a shoddy performance boiled over late in the first quarter when power forward Vukona picked up a technical foul and Adelaide benefitted from the free-throw line to lead 28-14 after the first 10 minutes.

Jackson netted a three-pointer to start the second quarter, and later had a spectacular block of a Johnson breakaway, but neither effort gave the visitors the impetus they required.

Instead, it was Adelaide who continued to feed off the energy off the home crowd and the poor shooting of the champions to bolster their advantage. The big men had the bulk of the scoring in the first half, with Schenscher netting 19 points and Johnson 15 while the Breakers shot at 26 per cent despite taking seven more shots than the hosts.

The second half was a totally different story as the Breakers began with a full-court press and never let off in harassing the Adelaide ball-handlers, and the home team's offence stalled completely.

They reduced the deficit by seven points with 10 minutes left and then went on a 13-0 run to reduce the deficit to one with four minutes remaining.

Stephen Weigh broke Adelaide's drought with a three-pointer, but Jackson replied in kind and Hudson finished the job in the dying minutes to the disbelief of the home crowd.

Schenscher led all scorers with 25 points and also had 16 rebounds but Johnson didn't score in the second half. The Breakers shot just 4 of 17 from three-point range and 35% from the field, but it turned out to be enough.

The win improved the Breakers' record this season to 10-3 and they will look to secure another away win on New Year's Eve when they meet the Cairns Taipans.

New Zealand Breakers 71 (W Hudson 23 C Jackson 17) beatt Adelaide 36ers 66 (L Schenscher 25 D Johnson 15) at Adelaide Arena




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