Mika Vukona reacts after nailing a 3-pointer to win the
game. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
When the going gets tough, the tough get going - and no
one on the Breakers' roster is tougher than Mika Vukona.
The Tall Black captain defined clutch against the Sydney
Kings at the North Shore Events Centre tonight, nailing a
three-pointer in the corner with a second on the clock to
break a tie game and hand the Breakers a 79-76 win.
Cedric Jackson looked set to repeat his final-minute heroics
of two weeks ago but, instead of driving to the hoop, he
found a wide-open Vukona and the spiritual leader of the
Breakers made no mistake.
Vukona joked after the game about the play - which resulted
in just his 12th career three-pointer - being one that
"everyone knew" was coming.
"Everybody sucked in and I had no other choice but to put it
up," he said. "It felt good but so did the air ball - that
felt good, too."
Their shooting numbers continue to be atypical but one number
remains familiar for the Breakers - that in the win column
After managing to barely crack 75 points for the first time
this season, coach Andrej Lemanis was unconcerned about the
prolonged offensive slump and pointed to the Breakers' 4-1
"I thought we had opportunities there to bust it open but we
just had a couple of things not go our way," he said. "It
could've been a much bigger margin, but I'm pleased with the
way we gritted it out and found a way to win once again."
Once again, the formula for success saw the Breakers ride a
resolute rearguard as they still struggled with shooting -
managing only 42 per cent from the field and from 50 per cent
from the line.
They may have beaten the Kings, in recent years the league's
cellar dwellers, by an average of 28 points in three meetings
last season, but that margin was never in play tonight.
They missed their first four attempts of the game, and it
didn't get much better in the first period. The Breakers
continued to pass up easy points from the free throw line,
managing only two of seven, as the Kings closed the quarter
strongly to level the score at 17.
That kind of inaccuracy enabled the Kings to take their first
lead a minute into the second quarter and, with defending
player of the week Ben Madgen (30 points on the night)
starting to find his touch, that advantage swelled to four.
But the Breakers began to warm up and five points in as many
seconds from Jackson gave the Breakers back the lead and
swung the tide back in their favour.
It was 43-39 to the defending champs at the major break, with
Jackson again illustrating his ability to dominate games with
16 points and three steals.
After a relatively quiet first half, Alex Pledger came to
life and proceeded to run rampant under the hoop. In a
seven-minute spell to open the third, Pledger contributed 11
points and five boards to help the Breakers increase their
advantage to a game-high 13.
Even with Pledger's best efforts, though, Sydney had a slight
edge in the rebounding battle - no mean feat against the
Breakers - and that helped the Kings to remain with seven at
the final break.
It was at that stage the Breakers of seasons past began to
blow teams out, but this season's side started the final
quarter with another stutter and allowed Sydney to close the
gap to one possession.
It was soon a tie game and, with the two sides trading
baskets, it remained that way with a minute left. Sydney had
their chance before Jackson and Vukona combined to seal it.
Breakers 79 (Jackson 22, Pledger 16, Corletto 12)
Sydney 76 (Madgen 30, Bruce 14, Lazare 9)