Vukona carries Breakers to 12th straight win

23:01, Feb 17 2013
Breakers vs 36ers
Dillon Boucher and Tom Abercrombie of the Breakers compete with Anthony Petrie and Daniel Johnson of Adelaide.
Breakers vs 36ers
Jason Cadee of Adelaide competes with Daryl Corletto of the Breakers.
Breakers vs 36ers
Will Hudson of the Breakers dunks the ball during the round two NBL match between the New Zealand Breakers and the Adelaide 36ers.
Breakers vs 36ers
Stephen Weigh of Adelaide makes a break during the round two NBL match between the New Zealand Breakers and the Adelaide 36ers.
Breakers vs 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.
Breakers vs Wildcats
Mika Vukona of the Breakers drives passed Shawn Redhage of the Wildcats.
Breakers vs 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.
Breakers vs Wildcats
Damian Martin of the Wildcats gets around CJ Bruton of the Breakers.
Breakers
Breakers' Mika Vukona drives against Crocs' Jacob Holmes.
Breakers
Mika Vukona under pressure from Jacob Holmes.
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.
Breakers
Gary Ervin lays up a shot for the Crocs as Alex Pledger attempts a block.
Tom Abercrombie
Tom Abercrombie goes for the block on Kings' Tom Garlepp.
Cedric Jackson
Cedric Jackson with the ball for the Breakers.
Daryl Corletto
Daryl Corletto the ball up for the Breakers.
Cedric Jackson
Cedric Jackson collides with Corin Henry of the Sydney Kings.
Mika Vukona
Mika Vukona shoots the match-winning three-pointer against the Sydney Kings.
Breakers vs Crocs
Cedric Jackson of the Breakers looks to drive past Larry Abney of the Crocodiles.
Breakers vs Crocs
Daryl Corletto of the Breakers drives past Jacob Holmes of the Crocodiles.
Breakers vs Crocs
Russell Hinder of the Crocodiles attmpts to drive past Alex Pledger of the Breakers.
CJ Bruton
CJ Bruton barks out some orders to team-mates.
Cedric Jackson
Cedric Jackson on the ball for the Breakers.
Dillon Boucher
Dillon Boucher celebrates during the Breakers win over the Townsville Crocodiles.
Tom Abercombie
Tom Abercombie throws down a slam dunk.
Tai Webster
Tai Webster takes the ball to the hoop.
Breakers vs Melbourne
Tom Abercrombie of New Zealand (L) and Seth Scott of Melbourne compete for the ball.
Breakers vs Melbourne
Will Hudson of the Breakers during the round nine NBL match between the New Zealand Breakers and the Melbourne Tigers.
Breakers vs Melbourne
Cedric Jackson of the Breakers collects the rebound during the round nine NBL match between the New Zealand Breakers and the Melbourne Tigers.
Breakers vs Melbourne
Cory Webster of the Breakers takes a shot against Melbourne.
Breakers v Taipans
Cedric Jackson goes up for two of his NBL career-high 32 points against the Taipans.
Breakers v Taipans
Mika Vukona chases a loose ball during the Breakers win over the Taipans.
Breakers v Taipans
Tom Abercrombie floats a ball over Brad Hill of the Taipans.
Breakers v Taipans
Alex Pledger pulls down a rebound against the Taipans.
Breakers v Taipans
Dillon Boucher sticks close to Dusty Rychart of the Taipans during the Breakers' 97-76 win.
NZ Breakers
Adelaide's Luke Schencher protects the ball as CJ Bruton, Dillon Boucher and Will Hudson close in.
NZ Breakers
Mika Vukona guards Adelaide's Dan Johnson.
NZ Breakers
Cedric Jackson goes up for a lay-up during the Breakers away win over Townsville.
NZ Breakers
Breakers and 36ers players dive on a loose ball.
NZ Breakers
Will Hudson attempts a block on Crocs player Michael Cedar.
NZ Breakers
Leon Henry celebrates his double three-pointers at the end of the third quarter against the Crocs with teammate Mika Vukona.
NZ Breakers
Mika Vukona protects the ball from Hawks players Tyson Demos and Oscar Forman.
NZ Breakers
Tom Abercrombie completes an alley-oop pass from Cedric Jackson during the heritage game against the Hawks.
NZ Breakers
Dillon Boucher, a member of the original Breakers side, looks for a pass during the heritage game.
NZ Breakers
Will Hudson blocks Hawks guard Adris Deleon.
Breakers v Kings
Tom Abercrombie goes up for a dunk as James Harvey of the Kings looks on.
Breakers v Kings
Daryl Corletto and Dillon Boucher celebrate the Breakers' hot start against the Kings.
Breakers v Kings
Mika Vukona goes for the easy lay-up.
Breakers v Kings
Daryl Corletto nails a three on his way to 14 points in the first four minutes against the Kings.
Breakers v Perth
Corey Webster shoots over Kevin Lisch on his way to a career high 14 points.
Breakers v Perth
CJ Bruton celebrates a three pointer.
Breakers v Perth
Cedric Jackson lays the ball up over Perth's Matt Knight.
Breakers v Perth
Tom Abercrombie loses a shoe as he goes for a dunk over Greg Hire.
Breakers v Perth
Jeremiah Trueman of the Wildcats and Alex Pledger of the Breakers compete for the ball.
Breakers
Mika Vukona celebrates a late basket with CJ Bruton.
Breakers
Dillon Boucher goes for a steal during the Breakers 92-84 win over the Wollongong Hawks.
Breakers
Tom Abercrombie takes a jump shot during the game against the Hawks.
Breakers
Cedric Jackson shoots under pressure from Wollongong Hawks players.
Breakers v Hawks
Cedric Jackson makes a pass around Oscar Forman of the Hawks.
Breakers v Hawks
Tom Abercrombie shoots a jumper during the win over the Hawks.
Breakers v Hawks
CJ Bruton entertains the crowd during a break in play.
Breakers vs 36ers
Breakers player Corey Webster scores a layup against the 36ers.
Breakers vs 36ers
Tom Abercrombie slam dunks the ball.
Breakers vs 36ers
Breakers' Mika Vukona drives at 36ers' Stephen Weigh.
Breakers vs 36ers
Breakers' Corey Webster takes on 36ers' Anthony Petrie.
Breakers vs 36ers
Breakers' Dillon Boucher celebrates the team's 13th straight win.
Breakers vs Cairns
Tom Abercrombie of the Breakers hangs on the hoop after dunking the ball.
Breakers vs Cairns
Mika Vukona goes after the ball against Cairns.
Breakers vs Cairns
Cedric Jackson shares a hug with Dillon Boucher after the thrilling win over Cairns.
Breakers vs Cairns
Mika Vukona of the Breakers lays the ball up.
Breakers 2012-2013 season photos
An injured Mika Vukona is helped off the court during the Breakers' clash with the Tigers.
Breakers 2012-2013 season photos
Dillon Boucher waves to Breakers fans for the last time ahead of the game with the Tigers.
Breakers 2012-2013 season photos
Christopher Goulding of the Tigers tries to block Dillon Boucher during their clash at the North Shore Events Centre.
Breakers v Tigers
Tai (left) and Corey Webster enjoy some time on court together in the final quarter of the win over the Tigers.
Breakers v Tigers
Reuben Te Rangi drives past Lucas Walker of the Tigers.
Breakers v Tigers
Tom Abercrombie soars high for one of his three alley-oops in the opening quarter of the win over Melbourne.
Breakers v Wildcats
Alex Pledger pulls down a rebound in the regular season finale against the Wildcats.
Breakers v Wildcats
Cedric Jackson mulls the loss after the Wildcats defeated the Breakers in Perth.
Breakers v Wildcats
Dillon Boucher tries to deny the pass for Jesse Wagstaff during the Breakers loss to the Wildcats.

Thank goodness for Mika Vukona, as the New Zealand Breakers workhorse willed his team to their 12th straight Australian NBL victory at the NSEC last night.

A final quarter meltdown threatened to engulf the Breakers as the Wollongong Hawks whittled a 15-point deficit all the way down to three, with still the best part of two minutes remaining.

But then Vukona, who had started with eight quick points, took the game over to seal a 92-84 victory in front of another sellout North Shore crowd. He had an offensive rebound and three-point play off Tom Abercrombie's missed triple to extend the lead back to six, then powered in for a layup to seal the deal with a minute left.

Mika Vukona
GAME CHANGER: Mika Vukona celebrates a late basket against the Wollongong Hawks.

Vukona finished with a team-high 24 points on 11-of-14 shooting, equalling his career best output and setting a new high for his time at the Breakers. He also had four rebounds to round out a rousing display, and show he's more than up to the challenge provided by the injury-enforced absence of American big man Will Hudson..

With the runaway league leaders forced to downsize without their backup centre (for around a month), the result was a faster pace and increased intensity from the back-to-back Australian NBL champs as they extended their winning streak to a club-best dozen.

The victory was notable on a number of fronts. Not only did it take the Kiwi club to an imposing 20-3 record atop the standings, but it was their 10th on the trot at home, their fifth on the bounce over the Hawks (including a four-game sweep this season) and put them one step closer to securing that all-important minor premiership.

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Some of the half-court defence was a bit ropey, and the way the Breakers allowed the Hawks back into the contest was also a concern. The visitors, who drop to 9-13, shot 53 percent from the floor and 47 from deep, but paid the price for too many turnovers (17) and a 12-3 pounding on the offensive boards.

But there was a lot to be positive about too for the Breakers, including an explosive 15-point third quarter from Abercrombie that saw the jumping jack three man finish with 17 points (7/12 FG) and six boards.

Alex Pledger also seemed to enjoy the responsibility as the team's only legit big, the seven-footer securing a quality double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds. His three blocks also took his season tally of rejections to 35.

Cedric Jackson missed a lot of shots (10 of his 14 attempts) but still added 11 points and five rebounds, while Daryl Corletto's nine points and five dishes were handy, as were Dillon Boucher's quartet of assists and steals.

The Breakers won points off turnovers 21-7 and the overall boards battle 33-20 and also made double the trips to the foul-line as the visitors. All were telling stats.

For the visitors, Adris Deleon (33 points on 12/17 FG) and former Breaker Oscar Forman (21 points/five rebounds) carried their scoring load superbly, and very nearly eked out a famous comeback.

Breakers coach Andrej Lemanis wasn't too disappointed afterwards with his team's shaky final-quarter play, putting it down to a mix of the Hawks making some "good plays" and his own team's defence breaking down a little.

"It was good to be challenged and Mika came up with some clutch offensive rebounds at the end that sort of sealed the game," he said.

"I was more disappointed about the first half. We had opportunities to put a really big margin on them, but by halftime we had let them back in the game.

"Playing better in those key moments is one of the things we need to get better at."

Wollongong coach Gordie McLeod was disappointed his side's gritty fightback had come up short, but said they had paid the price for some shoddy play early in the contest.

"Giving them 21 points from turnovers is asking for trouble, and double that up with them getting to the foul-line 30 times builds the pressure.

"We should be handling that pressure a lot better than we are. The effort was great, but that doesn't get you over the line."

After taking a step back in offensive fluidity last week, it had been refreshing to see the Breakers burst out of the blocks with a 10-0 blitz. Vukona had eight quick points as the Breakers jumped out to 14-4 inside the first five minutes and by the quarter's end the home side had worked into a 26-14 lead.

That grew to as many as 17 in the second period before a nice Hawks run narrowed the deficit to a more respectable 11 (48-37) by the half.

The Breakers forced 11 first-half turnovers with their swarming defence and made the visitors pay with an 11-4 edge in points off the giveaways.

Wollongong's resurgence continued early in the third period when they edged within a half-dozen, before Abercrombie's outburst saw the Breakers quickly re-establish their ascendancy, with a 73-60 lead heading into the final term.

Then it got interesting. Vukona's kind of interesting.

NZ Breakers 92 (Mika Vukona 24, Tom Abercrombie 17, Alex Pledger 12, Cedric Jackson 11), Wollongong Hawks 84 (Adris Deleon 33, Oscar Forman 21, Malcolm Grant 10). 1Q: 26-14; HT: 48-37; 3Q: 73-60.

Fairfax Media