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The New Zealand Breakers did the business again on New Year’s Eve, edging past the Cairns Taipans 66-61 in a hard-fought contest in Cairns.
Cedric Jackson was the mastermind with 17 points and six assists, but it was far less pretty than on previous occasions.
Jamar Wilson had a game-high 23 points for Cairns, but the next best was Dusty Rychart with eight points.
The Taipans were never out of the contest despite not clicking in offence, and ultimately had themselves to blame for the result.
They shot a woeful 15-36 from the free-throw line at one stage missing six in a row to finish the first quarter, and their 23 turnovers did not help either.
“It’s pretty obvious; way too many stupid turnovers, gave up 16 offensive rebounds and shot 15-of-36 from the free throw line. Ball game,” Taipans coach Aaron Fearne said.
“We did enough to win the game, we make free throws, we are a chance. But 15-of-36, are you serious? Far out, I’ve never seen that in my life.”
Veteran Dusty Rychart hinted that their mental demons were starting to get the better of them.
“It doesn’t help when you are four (wins) and nine (losses). A lot of guys are rushed and that shows; we aren't poised, we were shooting tight from the line. I don’t know whether we need a psychologist or what,” he said.
Cairns import Shane Edwards had a game to forget, coughing it up softly twice in the final stanza before being subbed, while Cam Gliddon and Jamar Wilson had a costly nine turnovers between them.
The arm-wrestle turned into a wrestle when Dillon Boucher and Alex Loughton finished in a tangle on the ground, a scuffle that saw the Breaker fouled out of the game with five to play.
The near-capacity New Year’s Eve crowd of 5217 was denied a free-flowing game as both teams struggle to get any momentum in offence.
The Taipans started promisingly with some quick passes inside giving them an early 8-7 lead.
But they didn’t score a point in the final five minutes of the quarter, missing six consecutive free throws as the Kiwis took a 16-8 buffer to the first break.
The hosts had every right to be out of the contest, with the consistent hand of Jackson constantly piloting the Breakers to points while Will Hudson (12 points, seven rebounds) chipped in with buckets of his own and Mika Vukona (eight rebounds) was his usual strong self off the boards.
But a 10-point run in the second quarter and another mini-surge in the third meant the Snakes never went away.
Their inability at the charity stripe, combined with continuously costly turnovers would cost them though.
“We are at exactly the half way point and to be where we are is a good place,” a content Breakers coach Andrej Lemanis said.
“We disrupted well, we limited their transition and we out-rebounded them. We won the effort categories and that is very pleasing,”
He said their versatility was becoming a major strength.
“We are finding ways to win games and the whole league is evolving and sometime you don’t get to play the way you want, but we are still finding ways to win.”
New Zealand Breakers 66 (Jackson 17, Hudson 12, Bruton 10)
Cairns Taipans 61 (Wilson 23)