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Perth Wildcats fall short against New Zealand in game two of semi-finals

1302446715 50 Perth Wildcats fall short against New Zealand in game two of semi finals

PHYSICAL BATTERING: Wildcats centre Jeremiah Trueman hits the deck after a heavy collison under the basket. Picture: Bohdan Warchomij Source: PerthNow

1302446715 81 Perth Wildcats fall short against New Zealand in game two of semi finals

TOO GOOD: Breakers guard Kirk Penney celebrates his team’s win. Picture: Bohdan Warchomij Source: PerthNow

THE Perth Wildcats will travel to new Zealand for a third and deciding semi-final after the Breakers leveled the series with a 93-89 victory at Challenge Stadium.

On the back of an outstanding individual performance from guard Kirk Penney, the Breakers overpowered the defending NBL champions in the final quarter to make amends for Thursday’s shock 101-78 loss in Auckland.

GALLERY: Perth Wildcats v new Zealand Breakers, NBL semi-final at Challenge StadiumPenney was at his destructive best, sinking an incredible 38 points, to ensure the minor premiers would not suffer the embarrassment of exiting the playoffs in straight sets.

Damian Martin worked tirelessly for the Wildcats to finish with 14 points, seven steals, five assists and six rebounds, but was fouled out in the dying stages of the game.

Matt Knight (17 points), Jesse Wagstaff (16) and Kevin Lisch (12) were other useful contributors, but it was not enough to get their team over the line.

Penney was fouled 13 times during the match and made the Wildcats pay, sinking 16 of his 20 attempts from the free-throw line.

A majority of those fouls came in the closing stages as Perth desperately tried to snatch a victory from the jaws of defeat.Two long-range three-pointers from Kevin Braswell (16 points) also proved decisive as both teams scrambled towards the finish line.

Wildcats coach Rob Beveridge labelled Penney’s game as "one of the great individual performances"."we didn’t get beaten by the Breakers, we got beaten by Kirk Penney,” he said."that was just a sensational display tonight. he went to the foul-line 20 times and makes 16 of 20."The other night he only got nine shots, but tonight he made up for that."The Wildcats will now turn their attention to winning on the road again, with game three scheduled for Wednesday in Auckland.

The winner of that game will play the victor of next Sunday’s other semi-final between Townsville and Cairns. Both teams are currently locked at one win apiece in their respective best-of-three series.Beveridge said the Wildcats would need to regroup quickly ahead of Wednesday’s decider."we had a little bit of a defeated look about us with four or five minutes to go and that’s just totally unsatisfactory to be a Perth Wildcat," he said."These guys have a lot of pride and will definitely get together and have a chat about it."

New Zealand did well to grab a three-point lead at the first change after racking up five fouls within the first four minutes of the match.

Penney was dominant in the first period with 10 points while Mika Vukona, who passed last-minute fitness test on his injured knee, controlled the boards at both ends of the court.

In between, Martin showed why we was crowned the NBL’s best defensive player earlier in the week with consecutive steals that resulted in unanswered Perth baskets.

Tensions threatened to boil over after several heated incidents, including a block by retiring new Zealand veteran Paul Henare that sent Lisch crashing to the floor.

Lisch was left dazed by the collision and exited the court with blood pouring from his head.

Penney continued his dominance in the second quarter, adding another 13 points to his individual total as the Breakers stretched their lead out to seven at the main break.

Several incidents under the basket left Beveridge fuming as he bemoaned his team’s poor returns on the scoreboard.

A half-time rocket from the coaching panel lifted Perth into action in the second half, with Martin, Wagstaff and Knight inspiring a fightback.

The Wildcats gradually chipped away at new Zealand’s lead and snatched the lead in the dying minutes of the third quarter to give the home side some valuable momentum needed heading into the final term.

New Zealand regained the lead early in the final term, but with both CJ Bruton and Thomas Abercrombie fouled out, their chances looked slim.

But the Breakers held their nerve to see off a spirited challenge from the Wildcats and send the series into a third and deciding game in Auckland on Wednesday.new Zealand coach Andrej Lemanis downplayed Penney’s performance, instead deflecting the focus onto the whole team’s effort."It was good, but basketball is such a team game," he said."Kirk’s got to knock it in, but you’ve got to get him some looks, set screens for him."he played very well…but it’s a team game. everybody contributes to the outcome."

<a href="http://www.perthnow.com.au/sport/basketball/listen-live-to-perth-wildcats-v-new-zealand-courtesy-of-sportfm/story-e6frg25u-1226036746750tag:news.google.com,2005:cluster=http://www.perthnow.com.au/sport/basketball/listen-live-to-perth-wildcats-v-new-zealand-courtesy-of-sportfm/story-e6frg25u-1226036746750Sun, 10 Apr 2011 09:57:48 GMT 00:00″>Perth Wildcats fall short against New Zealand in game two of semi-finals

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