All season, the NZ Breakers have looked for the man to pull them home. You know the sort: A bloke who makes that key bucket, crucial steal or courageous block in those tense last minutes of a game.
A bloke who makes the sort of character plays that can help turn around a season. With the Breakers outscored by 20 points in the final four minutes of games this year, that man was becoming desperately needed.
At the North Shore Events Centre on Friday, swingman Tom Abercrombie was "that man".
He scored 24 points in the 91-84 victory over the Townsville Crocodiles, draining five from eight from long range and making a key late steal to rally his side home.
"For a little while, we have been searching for go-tos down the stretch," Breakers coach Dean Vickerman admitted.
"We made it clear to Tom that he was the guy, down the stretch, that we really want to make a priority.
"He owned that himself last week when he made that big shot. Now it's time to give him ownership of making big plays down the stretch.
"He's a guy that we want the basketball in his hands in the last three minutes."
It's obvious once you hear Abercrombie talk: he wants to be "that man" for his team.
"I certainly feel confident that I can get the job done," the Tall Black said.
"It feels good to have a bit of backing of my coaches and team-mates to be someone that they want to go to down the stretch.
"Myself, it's about going out there, being aggressive and doing what I do, no matter what time of the game it is - especially down the stretch."
Next up for the defending champions are the Melbourne Tigers on the North Shore next Thursday - and scoring machine Chris Goulding, who is averaging 27.3 points a game.
"We've got a tough team coming in next week, in Melbourne," he said. "[They] changed their import and done some different things.
"[It's] a different challenge. They've got good experienced guys, they've got some really key guys as well - Goulding is the best scorer in the league. We've got to find a way to shut him down."
- Sunday Star Times
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