Breakers win thriller against Wollongong
The NZ Breakers continued their winning ways on their Australian road trip, notching a victory over the Wollongong Hawks in Wollongong tonight.
In a game featuring the Australian National Basketball League's two top defensive sides, a tight tussle in the paint was always going to feature – but the visitors proved their table-topping credentials in the third straight win over their four-game stretch across the Tasman.
League MVP candidate Cedric Jackson and fellow American Will Hudson were the stars for the visitors at WIN Entertainment Centre, where the Breakers have only won three times since 2003.
Jackson scored 16 points and proved a handful for the Hawks' defence throughout the evening with a trademark six assists and five steals.
Hudson showed his ability under the basket with 14 points and 10 rebounds.
Hawks guard Rhys Martin had his best outing of the season – scoring 28 points, three steals and five assists – but it wasn't enough for the slumping hosts.
Wollongong had the best record against the Breakers over the last three years coming into the clash with a seven win, five loss record.
But the team coached by Gordie McLeod has struggled in the league in recent times, with four losses in their last five games.
Despite mixed results from the free throw line, the Hawks grabbed a 20-16 lead at the end of the first quarter, led by Martin, who notched up seven first-quarter points. Forward Glen Saville contributed six.
Meanwhile, the Breakers had a slow start – symptomatic perhaps of playing their third game on the road in eight days – but were much more effective in the paint – with centre Alex Pledger firing early.
Foul trouble plagued the Breakers throughout the game, with the Hawks continually in the bonus. But Andrej Lemanis' side were kept in the fight thanks to Hudson, who notched seven rebounds before halftime.
The Breakers held a one-point lead at the half, with Pledger consistent when given the opportunity to shoot.
Thomas Abercrombie was uncharacteristically quiet throughout, with the Hawks covering one of the Breakers' biggest weapons well. CJ Bruton directed play for the Breakers, while Martin kept raining in points at the other end.
Two late free throws to Pledger ensured a six-point buffer with one quarter to go. The hosts fought back into the game as the clock wound down, taking the lead with only a minute to go when Oscar Forman drained a three-pointer.
But the Breakers were able to hold on to get the win – denying Lance Hurdle a last-second shot with some sturdy defence.
NZ Breakers 78 (Will Hudson 20, Cedric Jackson 16, Alex Pledger 14, Mika Vukona 11) Hawks 76 (Rhys Martin 28, Lance Hurdle 12, Glen Saville 11, Oscar Forman 11). 1Q: 16-20; HT: 43-42; 3Q: 62-56