On the first night of the new NBL season, the Perth Wildcats and New Zealand Breakers stared each other down, the modern day powerhouses of the league, the best rivalry of the past few seasons.
The Wildcats keep their core intact, as they seem to do each and every season. However they have lost James Ennis who has gotten himself into the NBA but they have replaced him with another NBA Draft Pick, DeAndre Daniels who promises to be just as exciting.
For the Breakers, they have regained one of their favourite players, Cedric Jackson makes his return to the NBL. Tonight however, the Breakers will be without Thomas Abercrombie for tonights game.
The starters for the Wildcats: Jermaine Beal, DeAndre Daniels, Matt Knight, Shawn Redhage, Damien Martin
The starters for the Breakers: Cedric Jackson, Rueben Te Rangi, Corey Webster, Mika Vukona, Ekene Ibekwe
Two of the new imports for both teams got the scoring underway – Ibekwe got the first two of the game off a nice jump shot for the Breakers, Daniels answered right back for the Wildcats.
Shawn Redhage, in his tenth season with the Wildcats, hits the first three of the game to give Perth an early 5-2 lead. It was quickly erased by Cedric Jackson who played the passing lane and sprinted down the court for the easy lay in. Perth with an offensive foul, a couple of careless turnovers and a shot clock violation early on showed that they had a few early season jitters. Breakers weren’t much better to be totally fair.
The Wildcats called a timeout with 4:05 left in the first, Breakers were up 15-9. Perth didn’t seem to have real offensive system in place in the first 6mins of the game, add to that the defense being played by the Breakers was “in your face” and extremely energetic.
The Breakers really held Perth down by playing a zone on defense, Perth just couldn’t find a way to break it down or get any real ball movement happening.
NZ had complete control in the opening quarter, they lead the way 28-14. Rhys Carter on fire early with 9pts on (3/3 shooting) for NZ, Redhage with 5pts led Perth.
Not a good start to the second quarter from Perth, Tom Jervis drove the lane and got called for an offensive foul so a turnover on their first possession back.
Rhys Carter with the perfect inbounds pass to Ibekwe for the big alley-oop jam, great way to start the scoring in the second!
Redhage re-enters the game with 5:25 remaining in the half and instantly hits the scoreboard with a mid range jumper, the Breakers defender sagged off him and Redhage made him pay. He was pretty much the only Wildcats player that was able to hit a shot up to this point in the game, only thing stopping him was foul trouble.
As the teams headed into the rooms for the main break, the Breakers had built a huge lead (49-26) and the Wildcats just looked lost out on the court. Carter and Jackson leading the way with 12pts for the Breakers while Redhage had 9pts for the Wildcats.
Jermaine Beal got the first points of the second half via the charity stripe, hitting two from two.
Within the first two minutes of the second half, it was already clear that there was no one on court for the Wildcats that was confident enough to take a shot. Daniels has been far too tentative in his first game in the NBL, he needs to be more aggressive and quicker in his decision making.
Beal came out more aggressive in the second half and scored the first 7pts of the half for the Wildcats, he needed support from his teammates though.
With about 6:30 remaining in the third, Damien Martin picked up his fourth personal foul and had to take a seat for most of the remainder of the quarter. Redhage also had three fouls up to this point of the game, so the Wildcats were looking at a bit of foul trouble for their starters.
Cedric Jackson looked like he hadn’t missed a beat in his time out of the NBL, he was absolutely lighting up the Perth team on both ends of the floor. New NZ import, Ibekwe was also impressive in his first NBL outing.
DeAndre Daniels made his presence in the game known in the final 5secs of the third, a HUGE dunk down the lane followed by a steal and dish to Hire for the shot off the glass. That should settle some of the restless fans watching this game.
The Wildcats closed the gap to 9pts (66-57) by the end of the third, Jackson destroying the Wildcats and Beal trying his best to keep them alive in the game.
The gap closes to 8pts until Cedric Jackson hit a deep, deep, deep three to put the Breakers back up by double figures early on in the final quarter.
With 7:09 left in the game Ibekwe picked up his fifth foul and heads to the bench, almost looked like it could have been a flop by Jesse Wagstaff to get that call.
After some sloppy play by both teams on the last couple of possessions a timeout was called with 5:21 to go in the game. Both teams need to tighten up their ball movement on offense.
Matthew Knight got his first point of the game via the free throw line with about 3:30 to go, an extremely quiet night for the Wildcats big man.
With the seconds counting down, Beal had a three pointer blocked and Te Rangi got the breakaway slam to put the Breakers up by 8pts, 30secs left.
The Breakers win over in Perth, the final score 80-70 with Cedric Jackson leading the way with 22pts, 5rbds and 5asts.
There may have been those that left the Breakers out of any championship discussion, tonight should have proved them very wrong. Has Cedric Jackson just jumped straight to MVP favouritism? He absolutely dominated the Wildcats tonight and there was simply no stopping him.
Poor shooting from the Wildcats early, great pressure defense by the Breakers and domination on the boards by the Breakers set the scene from the get-go.
The Wildcats struggled against the Breakers zone defense and simply got too far behind in the first half of the game. Tonight should’ve been all about the Wildcats but the Breakers have come in and stolen the night away!