Corey Webster showed he’s set for a big season for New Zealand Breakers putting up 19 first half points to lead the NBL Select Team to beating Team China 86-74 in Game 3 of the annual series on Sunday night in Changzhou.
Team China had wrapped up the series by winning the opening two matches starting with an 89-77 triumph on Wednesday in Qingdao and then prevailing 101-98 in Nantong on Friday night.
But the NBL Select Team wasn’t about to return home by conceding the first sweep in the now annual series against China.
On the back of Webster’s hot hand who had 19 points to half-time and eight of the team’s first 11 points, the NBL team opened up a handy lead early and never surrendered it the rest of the way to go on and win by 12 points.
NBL Select Team coach Trevor Gleeson, fresh off a fourth championship with the Perth Wildcats, was proud of how his group improved over the three games.
“I think we kept improving over the series and we were starting to play some good basketball with the more basketball that we played,” Gleeson said.
“We were very unselfish out on the court making that extra pass and getting open shots for our shooters. That got us on a good start and our defence was pretty good as well.”
Webster finished the game with 23 points, three rebounds and two assists but it was the Breakers two guard’s opening half performance that set up the victory.
The triple championship winning 199-game NBL veteran was just happy to help the NBL Select Team get the win in the finish.
“We improved over the three games and we only had a short amount of time together before playing the first game, so that was to be expected,” Webster said.
“But the effort from the group was better in Game 2 and 3, we adjusted to how the game was played and I was proud of the boys to walk away with a win. We didn’t want to walk away from here with three losses so it was a good effort.”
Plenty of other players then stood up including free agent Majok Majok who started in place of the injured Josh Boone. Still looking for a home in 2019/20, the centre delivered 13 points and 13 rebounds in a powerful display.
Adelaide 36ers captain Daniel Johnson continued his superb series with 12 points, six rebounds and three assists while Demitrius Conger contributed 11 points and four boards as he figures out where his next destination will be.
South West Melbourne Phoenix signing Kyle Adnam also had 10 points with Clint Steindl and Kevin White scoring seven points apiece.
After dominating the first two games, the NBL team did well restricting Chinese big man Wang Zhelin to 15 points and seven rebounds.
Abdusalam Abudurexiti did score 15 points for Team China on 3/4 shooting from three while Shuo Fang contributed 11 points.
Breakers star Corey Webster was on fire early with eight of the NBL Select Team’s opening eight points with new Adelaide 36ers signing Kevin White knocking down a triple.
The referees were making their mark early too with a couple of unsportsmanlike foul calls but Webster was proving the difference. A big offensive board from Majok Majok led to another Webster triple and the NBL team led 14-9.
The NBL team soon went up 21-9 on the back of a two-handed Majok slam and a three from Kyle Adnam. A second triple and another Majok dunk put the visitors up 28-14, and then a Clint Steindl bomb helped them lead 31-18 by quarter-time.
Webster then continued his hot hand with another three to start the second quarter and when he went to 16 points, Team China needed another timeout with the NBL Select Team up 41-25 heading towards half-time.
Webster hit another three to go to 19 in the half but Team China did end the half with some momentum to make the margin just 10 at the break.
Team China was always going to make a run and Abdusalam Abudurexiti hit a couple of threes to open the second half to get his team within seven before a step back three from Demitrius Conger stretched the NBL Select Team’s lead back out to 12.
Fresh off a championship with the Perth Wildcats, Mitch Norton hit a wide open triple for the NBL team to make it a 13-point lead again and by three quarter-time, it remained 10.
While Team China made a couple of runs in the fourth quarter, the NBL Select Team wouldn’t be denied and produced the 86-74 victory.
2019 AUSTRALIAN NBL CHINA TOUR
NBL SELECT TEAM 86 (Corey Webster 23, Majok Majok 13, Daniel Johnson 12)
TEAM CHINA 74 (Wang Zhelin 15, Abdusalam Abudurexiti 15, Shuo Fang 11)