The New Zealand Breakers showcased their champion qualities by conjuring a miraculous come-from-behind 71-66 victory over the Adelaide 36ers in the NBL game in Adelaide on Friday night.
Americans Will Hudson (23 points, 11 rebounds) and Cedric Jackson (17 points, 7 assists) were supreme as the fast-finishing Breakers overturned a 21-point half-time deficit.
Still trailing 61-47 at three-quarter-time, the visitors then rattled off 13 straight points en route to a 24-5 final term, shell-shocking the Sixers who were booed by their home fans as they succumbed to their fifth straight loss.
“It’s devastating for everybody – staff, players, fans,” Adelaide coach Marty Clarke said.
“The guys serviced Luke (Schenscher) well and got him the ball. But somewhere, somehow something changed. The game became more physical.
“They cranked up the defence and that’s the reason they’ve won two championships. We just couldn’t go with them.”
Twin towers Luke Schenscher (25 points, 16 boards) and Daniel Johnson (15, 8) made the Breakers look flat-footed and under-sized early as the hosts looked set for one of the upsets of the season and led 49-28 at half-time.
The visitors hustled the Sixers with an aggressive full-court press to start the third stanza with a 6-0 burst.
Schenscher’s powerful two-handed put-back jam off a missed Weigh free throw was the highlight of the third stanza, which Adelaide finished 14 points in front.
But the 36ers could no longer find their big men under pressure and Hudson and Jackson took over, scoring the first 13 points of the final period, Weigh’s triple with 3min 46sec remaining Adelaide’s first fourth-quarter score.
Jackson’s steal and lay-up from an Adelaide inbounds sliced the gap to a single point and he came up big again with a huge three to give New Zealand the lead.
“We just kept believing the whole game and that was the most important thing whether we won it or not,” New Zealand coach Andrej Lemanis said.
“We kept believing the whole second half. Keeping them to 17 points in a half after they scored 49 in the first (half) was a big key for us.
“They kicked our ass in the first half. One of the things I said to the guys is if you get down 21 points in a half, you can get up by 21 points in a half.”