Hard grind pays off for the NZ Breakers

Dillon Boucher tries to deny the pass for Jesse Wagstaff during the Breakers loss to the Wildcats.
Dillon Boucher tries to deny the pass for Jesse Wagstaff during the Breakers loss to the Wildcats.
Cedric Jackson mulls the loss after the Wildcats defeated the Breakers in Perth.
Cedric Jackson mulls the loss after the Wildcats defeated the Breakers in Perth.
Alex Pledger pulls down a rebound in the regular season finale against the Wildcats.
Alex Pledger pulls down a rebound in the regular season finale against the Wildcats.
Dillon Boucher waves to Breakers fans for the last time ahead of the game with the Tigers.
Dillon Boucher waves to Breakers fans for the last time ahead of the game with the Tigers.
Tom Abercrombie soars high for one of his three alley-oops in the opening quarter of the win over Melbourne.
Tom Abercrombie soars high for one of his three alley-oops in the opening quarter of the win over Melbourne.
Reuben Te Rangi drives past Lucas Walker of the Tigers.
Reuben Te Rangi drives past Lucas Walker of the Tigers.
Tai (left) and Corey Webster enjoy some time on court together in the final quarter of the win over the Tigers.
Tai (left) and Corey Webster enjoy some time on court together in the final quarter of the win over the Tigers.
Christopher Goulding of the Tigers tries to block Dillon Boucher during their clash at the North Shore Events Centre.
Christopher Goulding of the Tigers tries to block Dillon Boucher during their clash at the North Shore Events Centre.
An injured Mika Vukona is helped off the court during the Breakers' clash with the Tigers.
An injured Mika Vukona is helped off the court during the Breakers' clash with the Tigers.
Cedric Jackson shares a hug with Dillon Boucher after the thrilling win over Cairns.
Cedric Jackson shares a hug with Dillon Boucher after the thrilling win over Cairns.
Mika Vukona of the Breakers lays the ball up.
Mika Vukona of the Breakers lays the ball up.
Mika Vukona goes after the ball against Cairns.
Mika Vukona goes after the ball against Cairns.
Tom Abercrombie of the Breakers hangs on the hoop after dunking the ball.
Tom Abercrombie of the Breakers hangs on the hoop after dunking the ball.
Breakers' Dillon Boucher celebrates the team's 13th straight win.
Breakers' Dillon Boucher celebrates the team's 13th straight win.
Tom Abercrombie slam dunks the ball.
Tom Abercrombie slam dunks the ball.
Breakers player Corey Webster scores a layup against the 36ers.
Breakers player Corey Webster scores a layup against the 36ers.
Breakers' Corey Webster takes on 36ers' Anthony Petrie.
Breakers' Corey Webster takes on 36ers' Anthony Petrie.
Tom Abercrombie shoots a jumper during the win over the Hawks.
Tom Abercrombie shoots a jumper during the win over the Hawks.
Dillon Boucher goes for a steal during the Breakers 92-84 win over the Wollongong Hawks.
Dillon Boucher goes for a steal during the Breakers 92-84 win over the Wollongong Hawks.
CJ Bruton entertains the crowd during a break in play.
CJ Bruton entertains the crowd during a break in play.
Cedric Jackson makes a pass around Oscar Forman of the Hawks.
Cedric Jackson makes a pass around Oscar Forman of the Hawks.
Mika Vukona celebrates a late basket with CJ Bruton.
Mika Vukona celebrates a late basket with CJ Bruton.
Tom Abercrombie takes a jump shot during the game against the Hawks.
Tom Abercrombie takes a jump shot during the game against the Hawks.
Cedric Jackson shoots under pressure from Wollongong Hawks players.
Cedric Jackson shoots under pressure from Wollongong Hawks players.
Jeremiah Trueman of the Wildcats and Alex Pledger of the Breakers compete for the ball.
Jeremiah Trueman of the Wildcats and Alex Pledger of the Breakers compete for the ball.
Corey Webster shoots over Kevin Lisch on his way to a career high 14 points.
Corey Webster shoots over Kevin Lisch on his way to a career high 14 points.
Cedric Jackson lays the ball up over Perth's Matt Knight.
Cedric Jackson lays the ball up over Perth's Matt Knight.
Tom Abercrombie loses a shoe as he goes for a dunk over Greg Hire.
Tom Abercrombie loses a shoe as he goes for a dunk over Greg Hire.
CJ Bruton celebrates a three pointer.
CJ Bruton celebrates a three pointer.
Daryl Corletto nails a three on his way to 14 points in the first four minutes against the Kings.
Daryl Corletto nails a three on his way to 14 points in the first four minutes against the Kings.
Mika Vukona goes for the easy lay-up.
Mika Vukona goes for the easy lay-up.
Tom Abercrombie goes up for a dunk as James Harvey of the Kings looks on.
Tom Abercrombie goes up for a dunk as James Harvey of the Kings looks on.
Daryl Corletto and Dillon Boucher celebrate the Breakers' hot start against the Kings.
Daryl Corletto and Dillon Boucher celebrate the Breakers' hot start against the Kings.
Tom Abercrombie completes an alley-oop pass from Cedric Jackson during the heritage game against the Hawks.
Tom Abercrombie completes an alley-oop pass from Cedric Jackson during the heritage game against the Hawks.
Dillon Boucher, a member of the original Breakers side, looks for a pass during the heritage game.
Dillon Boucher, a member of the original Breakers side, looks for a pass during the heritage game.
Mika Vukona protects the ball from Hawks players Tyson Demos and Oscar Forman.
Mika Vukona protects the ball from Hawks players Tyson Demos and Oscar Forman.
Will Hudson blocks Hawks guard Adris Deleon.
Will Hudson blocks Hawks guard Adris Deleon.
Will Hudson attempts a block on Crocs player Michael Cedar.
Will Hudson attempts a block on Crocs player Michael Cedar.
Leon Henry celebrates his double three-pointers at the end of the third quarter against the Crocs with teammate Mika Vukona.
Leon Henry celebrates his double three-pointers at the end of the third quarter against the Crocs with teammate Mika Vukona.
Cedric Jackson goes up for a lay-up during the Breakers away win over Townsville.
Cedric Jackson goes up for a lay-up during the Breakers away win over Townsville.
Breakers and 36ers players dive on a loose ball.
Breakers and 36ers players dive on a loose ball.
Mika Vukona guards Adelaide's Dan Johnson.
Mika Vukona guards Adelaide's Dan Johnson.
Adelaide's Luke Schencher protects the ball as CJ Bruton, Dillon Boucher and Will Hudson close in.
Adelaide's Luke Schencher protects the ball as CJ Bruton, Dillon Boucher and Will Hudson close in.
Cedric Jackson goes up for two of his NBL career-high 32 points against the Taipans.
Cedric Jackson goes up for two of his NBL career-high 32 points against the Taipans.
Mika Vukona chases a loose ball during the Breakers win over the Taipans.
Mika Vukona chases a loose ball during the Breakers win over the Taipans.
Tom Abercrombie floats a ball over Brad Hill of the Taipans.
Tom Abercrombie floats a ball over Brad Hill of the Taipans.
Dillon Boucher sticks close to Dusty Rychart of the Taipans during the Breakers' 97-76 win.
Dillon Boucher sticks close to Dusty Rychart of the Taipans during the Breakers' 97-76 win.
Alex Pledger pulls down a rebound against the Taipans.
Alex Pledger pulls down a rebound against the Taipans.
Tom Abercrombie of New Zealand (L) and Seth Scott of Melbourne compete for the ball.
Tom Abercrombie of New Zealand (L) and Seth Scott of Melbourne compete for the ball.
Will Hudson of the Breakers during the round nine NBL match between the New Zealand Breakers and the Melbourne Tigers.
Will Hudson of the Breakers during the round nine NBL match between the New Zealand Breakers and the Melbourne Tigers.
Cedric Jackson of the Breakers collects the rebound during the round nine NBL match between the New Zealand Breakers and the Melbourne Tigers.
Cedric Jackson of the Breakers collects the rebound during the round nine NBL match between the New Zealand Breakers and the Melbourne Tigers.
Cory Webster of the Breakers takes a shot against Melbourne.
Cory Webster of the Breakers takes a shot against Melbourne.
Dillon Boucher celebrates during the Breakers win over the Townsville Crocodiles.
Dillon Boucher celebrates during the Breakers win over the Townsville Crocodiles.
Cedric Jackson on the ball for the Breakers.
Cedric Jackson on the ball for the Breakers.
CJ Bruton barks out some orders to team-mates.
CJ Bruton barks out some orders to team-mates.
Tai Webster takes the ball to the hoop.
Tai Webster takes the ball to the hoop.
Tom Abercombie throws down a slam dunk.
Tom Abercombie throws down a slam dunk.
Cedric Jackson of the Breakers looks to drive past Larry Abney of the Crocodiles.
Cedric Jackson of the Breakers looks to drive past Larry Abney of the Crocodiles.
Daryl Corletto of the Breakers drives past Jacob Holmes of the Crocodiles.
Daryl Corletto of the Breakers drives past Jacob Holmes of the Crocodiles.
Russell Hinder of the Crocodiles attmpts to drive past Alex Pledger of the Breakers.
Russell Hinder of the Crocodiles attmpts to drive past Alex Pledger of the Breakers.
Mika Vukona shoots the match-winning three-pointer against the Sydney Kings.
Mika Vukona shoots the match-winning three-pointer against the Sydney Kings.
Tom Abercrombie goes for the block on Kings' Tom Garlepp.
Tom Abercrombie goes for the block on Kings' Tom Garlepp.
Cedric Jackson with the ball for the Breakers.
Cedric Jackson with the ball for the Breakers.
Daryl Corletto the ball up for the Breakers.
Daryl Corletto the ball up for the Breakers.
Cedric Jackson collides with Corin Henry of the Sydney Kings.
Cedric Jackson collides with Corin Henry of the Sydney Kings.
Cedric Jackson of the Breakers rides the shoulders of Jacob Holmes of the Crocs.
Cedric Jackson of the Breakers rides the shoulders of Jacob Holmes of the Crocs.
Gary Ervin lays up a shot for the Crocs as Alex Pledger attempts a block.
Gary Ervin lays up a shot for the Crocs as Alex Pledger attempts a block.
Breakers' Mika Vukona drives against Crocs' Jacob Holmes.
Breakers' Mika Vukona drives against Crocs' Jacob Holmes.
Mika Vukona under pressure from Jacob Holmes.
Mika Vukona under pressure from Jacob Holmes.
Stephen Weigh of Adelaide makes a break during the round two NBL match between the New Zealand Breakers and the Adelaide 36ers.
Stephen Weigh of Adelaide makes a break during the round two NBL match between the New Zealand Breakers and the Adelaide 36ers.
Will Hudson of the Breakers dunks the ball during the round two NBL match between the New Zealand Breakers and the Adelaide 36ers.
Will Hudson of the Breakers dunks the ball during the round two NBL match between the New Zealand Breakers and the Adelaide 36ers.
Dillon Boucher and Tom Abercrombie of the Breakers compete with Anthony Petrie and Daniel Johnson of Adelaide.
Dillon Boucher and Tom Abercrombie of the Breakers compete with Anthony Petrie and Daniel Johnson of Adelaide.
Jason Cadee of Adelaide competes with Daryl Corletto of the Breakers.
Jason Cadee of Adelaide competes with Daryl Corletto of the Breakers.
lex Pledger of the Breakers competes with Matthew Knight of the Wildcats during the round one NBL match between the New Zealand Breakers and the Perth Wildcats.
lex Pledger of the Breakers competes with Matthew Knight of the Wildcats during the round one NBL match between the New Zealand Breakers and the Perth Wildcats.
Mika Vukona of the Breakers drives passed Shawn Redhage of the Wildcats.
Mika Vukona of the Breakers drives passed Shawn Redhage of the Wildcats.
 Tom Abercrombie, CJ Bruton and Dillon Boucher of the Breakers look on during the round one NBL match between the New Zealand Breakers and the Perth Wildcats.
Tom Abercrombie, CJ Bruton and Dillon Boucher of the Breakers look on during the round one NBL match between the New Zealand Breakers and the Perth Wildcats.
Damian Martin of the Wildcats gets around CJ Bruton of the Breakers.
Damian Martin of the Wildcats gets around CJ Bruton of the Breakers.

The comeback kings have done it again, with the New Zealand Breakers riding home on the late-game heroics of Tom Abercrombie to complete a clean sweep of their quartet of holiday season road games.

For the second time in four Aussie NBL games the Breakers had to mount a serious second-half comeback as they overcame a 15-point halftime deficit to pip the Townsville Crocodiles 82-78 at The Swamp for a fifth straight victory.

The win, which snapped the Crocs' win streak at five, solidifies the Breakers' competition lead at 13-3. Their sweep of four straight road games since their December 28 visit to Adelaide marks the first time they've achieved the feat.

GOOD TIMES: Leon Henry (left) and Mika Vukona celebrate the Breakers win over the Townsville Crocodiles.
GOOD TIMES: Leon Henry (left) and Mika Vukona celebrate the Breakers win over the Townsville Crocodiles.

"We're finding way to win on the road during this stretch," noted Abercrombie after the game. "It hasn't been pretty at times but we've kept grinding and we've come up with some big buckets at the end."

The Breakers had a lot to thank Abercrombie for as the Tall Blacks small forward produced his most telling performance of the season.

He finished with a team-high 19 points on nine-of-15 shooting, but it was the way the springy jump-shooter took the game over in the final three minutes that suggested he may have turned a significant corner in his comeback from that bothersome ankle injury.

The Breakers had trailed by seven inside the final four minutes, before a Will Hudson dunk got them within five.

Then Abercrombie took over, making four straight jumpers to rattle off nine consecutive points that propelled the Kiwi club to another notable victory.

"We've had to go through different things and we've found different ways to win," said coach Andrej Lemanis.

"In Adelaide we were down 21 at the half and found a way to win. In Wollongong last week there were 22 lead changes and 10 ties, and we found a way to win.

"With that comes a confidence that no matter what's going on, if you keep playing a certain way you're going to give yourself at least a chance to get back in the game and win it.

"This group has been together a while and has experienced success together. That builds a belief that you're never out of it."

Abercrombie and his backup at small forward, Leon Henry, provided the two key offensive parts of the Breakers' latest comeback equation.

Henry's back to back triples at the end of the third quarter were huge momentum changers as the Breakers halved a 12-point deficit in the final minute.

"It was huge for Leon to make those threes at the end of the third, and to see Tommy close out the game the way he did was outstanding for his confidence, and good to see him doing that again," said assistant coach Dean Vickerman.

"We ran some plays for Tom at the end, and Mika [Vukona] set some fantastic screens to get him open. You could just see the change in him as a person. He was running around confident. We need him to be like that during the playoff period."

Vickerman described the victory as "hugely important" as the Breakers continue to keep their noses ahead of the pursuing Perth Wildcats at the top end of the table.

"We put a pretty big focus on these four games to try and get them all. Some people were talking about three out of four. But we expect to go and win every game.

"We're halfway through this heavy stretch right now, and we've got another three games in a week and a-half. We've just got to freshen these guys up and make sure they're ready for Thursday (at home against Wollongong) and Sunday (at Adelaide)."

It wasn't just the Abercrombie and Henry show in Townsville. Cedric Jackson (10 points, 10 boards, eight assists and three steals) had his usual stats-stuffer; the two-headed centre combination of Hudson and Alex Pledger combined for 20 points and 17 rebounds; and Mika Vukona (eight points, eight boards, five assists) and Dillon Boucher both made some big plays.

But on a night where the Breakers were outshot (the Crocs went 54 percent for the game; the Kiwis 43), a huge rebounding advantage (44-18) was crucial in providing a much-needed possession edge for the visitors.

"Our rebounding was outstanding again," noted Vickerman. "If we keep winning that much possession we can win games shooting at 43 percent. There was a huge commitment from everybody on the boards tonight."

Winning has become a habit at this hugely successful club.

Long may it continue. 

Townsville Crocs 78 (Gary Ervin 29, Luke Nevill 20, Michael Cedar 11, Todd Blanchfield 10), NZ Breakers 82 (Tom Abercrombie 19, Cedric Jackson 10, Alex Pledger 10, Will Hudson 10). 1Q: 23-16; HT: 45-30; 3Q: 65-59.

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