Basketball: Breakers celebrate history in style

They wore their original singlets and played like the original Breakers at times, but the defending champions eventually burst to life against Wollongong last night to barely win their sixth straight game, 72-71.

To mark heritage round in the Australian NBL, the Breakers honoured their inaugural side at the North Shore Events Centre and, for a half, the current players threatened to take too seriously the homage to the past.

A lot of the Breakers' history from a decade ago isn't as appealing to the eye as the blue and gold singlets they sported tonight - and neither was the basketball on display for the first 20 minutes.

But the Breakers recovered from scoring just 30 points in a disjointed opening half to storm to a fourth quarter lead and survive a nervy finish to edge it by one.

"I guess the good news about it is we're finding ways to win, and that's what good teams do," said Dillon Boucher, a foundation player at the club. "We weren't pretty for a lot of the game tonight but we ended up doing enough to be on top at the end of the game."

On paper, it should have been easier for the two-time champs. The Hawks came into the contest with four straight losses to their name and two of their best players - back court pair Rhys Martin and Lance Hurdle - out for the season with injuries.

But Gordie McLeod's side have forged a habit in recent season of troubling the ANBL front-runners. The Wollongong defences usually provide problems for the Breakers, with the New Zealanders' win across the Tasman two weeks ago their sixth in 13 games against the Hawks.

As he did a week ago in Townsville, Tom Abercrombie found the keys to eventually unlock the defence and his 15 points paced the home side and continued his renaissance.

The Breakers had a habit of putting themselves in holes before digging their way out on their four-game summer sweep across the Tasman, and it was a habit they appeared to bring back to the North Shore.

In a scrappy, defensive first half, the Breakers' offence took time to click into gear but, fortunately for them, the depleted Wollongong had similar struggles.

The two teams came into the clash ranked in the top three in defence and that showed - though some disorderly offence from both sides, particularly at the rim, was another contributor.

Wollongong led by five in the first quarter before the Breakers tied it at 14 by the first break but, while the Hawks began to take flight in the second, the home side still seemed weary from the road trip.

The Breakers trailed 37-30 at the half after shooting just 32 per cent from the floor, and coach Andrej Lemanis thought the problems at one end of their floor were a result of what was happening under the other basket.

"We're a team that generates energy and intensity out of our defence, and I thought we didn't do that in the first half," he said. "I thought in the second half we did a much better job of addressing that."

It certainly looked that way as an increase in the effort areas saw the Breakers force their way back into the contest, doubling up Wollongong in rebounds for the third quarter and scavenging for a number of loose balls.

The result was a 10-0 run for the defending champions which saw the scores locked at 53 heading into the final quarter.

The Breakers appeared buoyed and the sold-out crowd was responding, especially when Cedric Jackson completed a trademark lob pass to Abercrombie to boost the Breakers' lead to six.

But Wollongong continued to show just why they are the Breakers' bogey team, staying right on their tails on forcing the game to the final possession.

Fortunately for the Breakers Wollongong guard Adris Deleon - who led all scorers with 34 - could convert only one of two free throws and the Breakers hung on.

Breakers 72 (Abercrombie 15, Pledger 12, Jackson 10), Wollongong 71 (Deleon 34, Forman 12, Macmillan 10). HT: 30-37.

- Kris Shannon of APNZ

Add a Comment