By Thomas Woodgate, Pagemasters
The New Zealand Breakers held on to record a drama-filled 96-94 overtime win over the Sydney Kings at the Crown Kingdome on Saturday night.
A Cedric Jackson (24 points) lay-up through the heart of the Kings defence with 4:89 on the clock in overtime proved to be the final piece of action in a pulsating encounter where the lead changed 22 times.
"At this stage of the season we couldn’t go through a better game,” Breakers coach Andrej Lemanis said.
Before that, a James Harvey (16 points) three-pointer had tied the game and looked to send it into a second overtime.
It was a nail-biting end to the game, and mirrored the drama of the end of the fourth quarter.
With less than two seconds left on the clock at the end of regulation time, Kings were down by three points.
Corin Henry (22 points) scored his first free-throw, but missed the second, only for Darnell Lazare (25 points) to put in the rebound and send the game into overtime as 7124 people in the Kingdome erupted.
Just over a minute earlier, Jackson had sunk a three-pointer to give the Breakers what appeared an unasailable five-point lead.
In truth, Jackson was a constant thorn in the Kings’ side all night.
In tandem with Alex Pledger (18 points), the pair were two very big reasons for the reigning champions holding off a desperate Sydney side.
Given the Breakers took 30 more shots than the Kings, it’s perhaps surprising the winning margin was so narrow in the end.
“It’s amazing that we gave up so many more shots but we made it to overtime, so we did a lot of things right – we’re close,” Kings coach Shane Heal said.
The game got off to a low-scoring start.
Both teams traded missed shots early and it would take two minutes for the scoreboard to light up.
When Pledger collected a defence-splitting pass to rip through the centre of the Kings defence to slam home a ferocious dunk, it woke up both the crowd and the teams from their early slumber.
But when the home side needed a flash of inspiration, it was their imports Henry and Lazare that obliged.
“The team feeds off my energy, especially on the defensive end, so I just go out and play as hard as I can and get my team together and try to lead them,” Henry said.
And for Breakers it was the tandem combination of Jackson and Pledger that proved effective on numerous occasions.
A sublime alley-oop in the third quarter an exclamation point on their dominance.
But an explosive tomahawk dunk from Lazare over Vukona as he ripped through the Breakers defence felt like a force of nature had swept through the Kingdome.
It was drama right up until the end, only for the Breakers to hold on for the win.
“This group has experienced a lot of success this year and with that comes confidence and our team has a fantastic belief that we’ll give ourselves a chance to win,” Lemanis said.
New Zealand Breakers 96 (Jackson 24, Pledger 18, Corletto 12)
Sydney Kings 94 (Lazare 25, Henry 22, Madgen 17)
Crowd: 7124 at Sydney Entertainment Centre