Basketball: NZ Breakers snap ANBL slump with victory over Perth Wildcats at New Plymouth

NZ Breakers have rekindled their flagging Aussie NBL hopes, snapping a three-game slump with a hardfought 97-94 win over archrivals Perth Wildcats at New Plymouth.

Sitting in second on the competition table, behind champion Sydney Kings, with an 11-6 record, the Breakers' fortunes had taken a turn for the worse, since their home loss to Perth last month, not helped by a bout of COVID-19 in their ranks.

But they have survived late-game heroics from star guards Bryce Cotton and Corey Webster to steady the listing ship, outscoring their guests by 10 points in the third quarter. 

Coach Mody Maor calls the shots for the Breakers
Coach Mody Maor calls the shots for the Breakers. Photo credit: Photosport

The home side, taking a game to the provinces, trailled by as many as 11 points in the second quarter, but scored 10 unanswered points to trail just 49-48 at halftime, then built their own double-figure advantage with 14 straight points in the third.

American guard Barry Brown Jr led the scoring effort with 23 points, along with six rebounds and six assists, with backcourt mate Izayah Le'afa adding 18 and French prodigy Rayan Rupert providing 14 in limited minutes off the bench, returning from injury.

The result came without starting point guard Will McDowell-White.

Nine points ahead with less than five minutes to play, the Breakers had to withstand a strong comeback, spearheaded by Webster, who hit back-to-back three-pointers down the stretch. 

Cotton matched his season-high scoring output with 32 points, including five long-range baskets, as the Wildcats converted 12/21 from beyond the arc.

By contrast, the Breakers outscored their rivals 60-34 in the paint.

A loose inbounds pass from Le'afa allowed Perth to close within two points with 11 seconds remaining, but Brown converted a free throw and missed a second, leaving the Wildcats little time to set up an equaliser before the buzzer, as Brady Manek missed a corner three-point attempt.

Webster's young brother, Tai - another former Breaker - did not take the court, after joining Perth only a couple of days ago.

The Breakers next travel to Adelaide to face the 36ers on Sunday.

NZ Breakers 97 (Brown Jr 23, Le'afa 18, Rupert 14, Pardon 13, Brantley 11) Perth Wildcats 94 (Cotton 32, Manek 20, C Webster 19, Thomas 14)