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September 14, 2006 at 11:34 pm #6659
Coming off an impressive performance at the NBL pre-season Blitz tournament, the Firepower Sydney Kings went down 96-93 to the New Zealand Breakers in front of a sellout crowd Wednesday night at Northern Beaches Indoor Sports Stadium at Warriewood.
The Kings played without the Captain, Jason Smith, and new recruit Russell Hinder, both rested with minor injuries, while the Breakers had everyone in uniform for the game.
New Zealand is expected to be one of the most improved teams in the Philips Championship, and they showed why with a committed 48-minute display at both ends of the floor, jumping out to a massive lead in the third quarter before the Kings made a game of it and almost stole a W the Breakers earned the hard way.
The Kiwis got great performances from both their imports, with Brian Wethers contributing 25 points, four rebounds and four assists and Carlos Powell impressing with 20 points, 13 boards and 3 steals, while Luke Kendall was outstanding all night for the Kings, producing 22 points, five rebounds, three steals and two blocked shots.
The Kings struggled out of the gate with New Zealand’s physical defence, and it took the team over two minutes to register their first field goal – a jumper by Ian Crosswhite – as the Kiwis jumped out to an early 10-4 lead.
New Zealand’s lead extended to ten thanks to strong moves from Wethers and Powell before David Barlow exploded with a three and a long-range jumper to pull Sydney back within five, 14-9, midway through the period.
BJ Carter came off the bench to drain a triple, and suddenly the Kings were right back in the ballgame, but the Breakers’ size advantage was causing some problems with Ben Pepper an imposing target inside.
Wethers continued to dominate at both ends, and he keyed a late 7-0 Breaker run before Oscar Forman and Adam Darragh both hit perimeter bombs to push the margin out to ten, and only two three pointers from Brad Sheridan kept Sydney in it as New Zealand went to the first break with a healthy 31-24 lead.
Once again, the Prototype was the man as we got going in the second quarter, with a jumper and a strong drive to the rack helping the Kings to cut the Breaker lead to just one, 33-32, with three minutes gone.
But the Breakers weren’t here to just lie down, and Wethers and Aaron Olson swished back to back three pointers to retake control of the game. It was 41-32 midway through the period after the 2005 League MVP found Pepper with a beautiful pass inside.
EJ Rowland had been struggling mightily to that point, but he finally came alive with a quicksilver move to the rack for the score and a great feed to Barlow for the power jam as Sydney fought back.
A Luke Kendall drive cut the Breaker advantage to just one in the last three minutes, but New Zealand went on another run late in the half, and behind some great work from imports Wethers and Powell, who were both proving difficult to stop, the Breakers scored the last seven points and went to the rooms with a solid 59-49 lead.
New Zealand had three players in double figures at halftime. Powell led the way with 15 points, five rebounds and three steals, Wethers had 14 and Pepper 11 on 5 of 6 from the field. Barlow was a first half monster for Sydney, leading the game with 17 points on 5 of 6 shooting from the field, while Sheridan had 8 and Kendall 7.
Powell and Wethers continued their two-man show as we got the second half underway, combining for seven of the first nine points of the third period as New Zealand powered to a massive 68-49 lead with three minutes gone.
Ian Crosswhite stopped the bleeding with a short bank shot and EJ hit two free throws, but the Breakers were pumped, and an Olsen triple pushed the margin out to 18.
However, Sydney displayed that old Kings fighting spirit, and behind three pointers
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