Ibekwe Inspires Breakers In Win Over Wildcats

A dunk happy Ekene Ibekwe has helped propel the New Zealand Breakers to a big comeback victory over the Perth Wildcats at Vector Arena.

The athletic center didn’t miss a shot on his way to a team-high 18 points off the bench as the Breakers erased a 12-point halftime deficit to run out 77-66 winners over the reigning champs on Thursday night.

Veteran forward Shawn Redhage poured in 15 first half points while import gun DeAndre Daniels added 11 as the visiting Wildcats cruised into the halftime break with a 44-32 advantage.

But a fine-tuned defensive effort saw the Breakers allow Perth just eight third quarter points as the outside shooting of Corey Webster and Rhys Carter brought the Auckland crowd back to life, giving New Zealand a two-point lead heading into the final period.  

The Breakers kept the momentum on their side to start the fourth, kicking things off with an explosive Ibekwe transition dunk in the face of Redhage before the ensuing free throw pushed the Breakers ahead 10 with 7:20 remaining. Some crucial free throw misses and poor finishing at the rim by the Wildcats enabled New Zealand to comfortably close out the win.

“They are the defending champions for a reason and we had to turn it up or they would have blown us out,” star guard Cedric Jackson said in the NBL post-game broadcast interview.

“We had to play to play team defence, we had to play smart because they are great at attacking the ring and shooting the ball,” he added.

“We could have done a whole lot better, but we’ll take it. An ugly win is an ugly win. We kept sticking with it and that’s the resilience of our team.”

Jackson followed Ibekwe’s big night with 15 points of his own to go along with seven rebounds and five assists. Webster added 14 while big man Alex Pledger scored an equal season-high 13.

Redhage and Daniels (nine rebounds, two steals) led the Cats with 19 and 16 points respectively.  

Photo: Hannah Peters/Getty Images.