Abercrombie block seals the deal for Breakers
For most of an epic Aussie NBL grand final series, Tom Abercrombie was playing with the handbrake on.
But with 23 seconds left in Tuesday night's decider he let it off just in time to make the biggest play of the night.
With all due respect to finals MVP CJ Bruton's pair of dagger three-pointers in the final two minutes, Abercrombie's defensive play that sealed the deal with 26 seconds left was more remarkable because it was so unexpected.
The springy swingman had been hampered by a serious ankle injury all through the finals. He sat game one out, was a bit-part player in game two, then finally was able to produce something more like his usual quota in the decider, finishing with 12 points, four boards, two assists and the block from heaven in the 79-73 Breakers victory.
The big play came after the Wildcats had closed a seven-point deficit to four, and with 29 seconds left forced a Cedric Jackson turnover that put Shawn Redhage in for what looked like a clear layup. The margin would have been two and game on again.
Instead, shrugging off the pain of an ankle that was getting increasingly worse, Abercrombie soared in from nowhere and blocked Redhage's gimme, and the Breakers were able to regain possession, and a second straight title.
"I think adrenaline just took over," Abercrombie said yesterday. "When you're that close to the finish line nothing is going to stop you.
"One of the things I really pride myself on is making those kind of plays. To do it in a situation like that was pretty awesome. He [Redhage] obviously thought I couldn't jump, but I still had a couple of little hops left in me.
"I didn't quite realise at the time the situation, or the impact it had, but looking back now it was a big play and I was happy I could help out."
Abercrombie said it had been a hugely "frustrating" finals series to be so handicapped by his ankle but he felt it was an experience he will learn from.
"Once I kind of accepted I wasn't going to be my usual self I was OK with that and found other ways to help the team out," he said.
Breakers assistant coach Dean Vickerman called it a "great moment" in the Abercrombie career. "To have his athleticism taken away, to be able to deal with the pain and manage that injury and do whatever he could to contribute, he'll remember that for a long time."
Abercrombie said this championship felt just as sweet as the first because of the adversity and the degree of difficulty this time round.
"There were plenty of obstacles thrown our way, and to meet Perth in the finals, the top two teams, it was how it was meant to be."
Abercrombie, who has re-signed with the Breakers for three more years, will begin preparations for a possible NBA summer league stint and the Olympic qualifying tournament with the Tall Blacks.
- © Fairfax NZ News