Basketball: Vukona heroics seal Breakers win

Mika Vukona reacts after nailing a 3-pointer to win the game.  (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
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 record.

"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)

HT: 43-39


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