Report: Ethan Jaiswal
Another weekend, another opportunity to make history, the Breakers did just that on Sunday afternoon when they defeated their third NBL 1 side of the National Cup to reach the Semi-Finals. On the day of the World Cup Final, there didn’t seem to be a more important fixture to the sold-out Bletchley Leisure Centre crowd who rallied behind the MK side on their way to a gritty, hard-fought 78-71 victory, led by a monumental 26 points from Mike New Jr.
A Battle of four quarters
As tip-off approached on the Breakers’ home-court for their most important game in club existence thus far, there was not even a slight sense of trepidation in the air: it was just another game for the still-unbeaten, odds-defying side out of NBL 3 East.
The Magic won the jumpball, and the first quarter performance showed their quality as a D1 outfit: their three leading scorers all contributing to an impressive 26 point outing within the first 10 minutes of play. Andre Gayle in particular stood-out as the Magic’s danger man: standing at 6’6″, with obvious athleticism, basketball IQ and a silky jump shot that was all on display in the early stages of the game.
Alluding to what was to come, New Jr. opened the scoring for the Breakers with a wide-open shot from beyond the arc. 8 of the Breakers’ 16 in this quarter came from the black-and-red’s #15, most impressive of which was an and-1 play under the basket that enticed significant energy from the audience.
A 14-0 run from the Magic to close the quarter saw the visitors take hold of a 10 point lead heading into the second: 16-26.
The response of the Breakers entering the second quarter was to lock-in defensively, and that was underlined by a stifling showing that held their opposition to single-digits over the ten minute period. Six of the nine points for the Magic came from 17 year-old Joe Buchanan, who played with a tenacity and maturity ahead of his years.
For the home-side, Luke Gregory was effective early on, scoring back-to-back baskets and converting a tough and-1 that shifted the Breakers’ offence into the next gear. Academy product William Issekya provided a huge spark off the bench with a hustle play that forced a turnover from Gayle, drawing an unsportsmanlike foul in a sequence that maintained the Breakers’ control over the quarter. 33-35.
The third quarter was the Breakers’ highest scoring of the game, captain Jordan Spencer made his mark after a testy matchup with the Magic’s scrappy point guard, Tyrell Brown. 10 of Spencer’s 16 points came in this period, he forced the Magic defence to adjust their scheme by assigning the much bigger Gayle to guard him to stifle the effectiveness of Spencer’s playmaking. 57-53.
The Magic came out the gates strong in the final quarter: Tyme Regent-Bascombe drilled a three to cut their deficit to 1 in the first 17 seconds. The rhythm the Breakers had established earlier in the game faultered in this period, but the effort of the players did not as they continued to crash the offensive glass and win second-chance looks consistently. With 8:50 on the clock, Dante Langley flew in from the free-throw line to catch a teammates’ miss off the backboard; rose back up, and made the basket while also winning a foul against the Magic defender. A move of pure effort that invoked a celebration among players and fans alike.
On his 18th birthday, Buai Luak raised the roof of the Bletchley Leisure Centre with a thunderous fast-break dunk late in the fourth quarter, extending the Breakers’ slim lead to 6. The Magic would not get closer than 3 points after this, Gameday MVP Mike New Jr. scored a pair of huge baskets when it mattered most: keeping the Magic 2 posessions away on both occasions, the second of which was a clean pull-up jumpshot from 17 feet with just 23 seconds left on the clock: the dagger.
There was a truly special moment immediately after this play, following a timeout called by the Magic with the Semi-finals truly in sight; the Breakers players took to the floor and as they did, an eruption from the crowd took place: commending the side on their soon-to-be achievement. The players were soaking it in, enjoying their moment: a striking display that exemplifies what the Breakers have built in such a short space of time.
A pair of Spencer free-throws saw the game out and brought everyone in the building to their feet as it was confirmed: a place in the Semi-Finals of the National cup, the second of the weekend, following the U18 men’s victory on Saturday.
The Breakers will face NBL 1’s toughest in the Semi-Finals: The Hemel Storm. The Storm currently sit atop the standings of the division, currently undefeated (19-0 in all competitions) – much like the Breakers. Ticket and travel information will be released soon for the fixture that will take place on the 8th of January in Hemel, tip off TBC.
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