Throughout their spluttering defence of the Australian NBL title, there has been one narrative that has followed the Breakers this season: the unrelenting performances of forward Mika Vukona.
The Breakers' tight 93-87 victory over the Melbourne Tigers on Friday night was no different, with the Tall Blacks captain notching a double-double (17 points and 15 rebounds - as well as six assists) to keep the Kiwi side's playoff hopes viable by the slimmest of margins.
Swingman Tom Abercrombie was the man who sealed the victory with a deep three-pointer late after the Breakers drained 30 points in the final quarter - but Vukona was the man both coaches were talking about post-match.
"He was a beast tonight," Breakers coach Dean Vickerman said.
"That's two games against Melbourne where he's had around 17 boards."
The reality is the Tigers were the better side for the great majority of the clash, willed on by an ever-vocal home crowd at the State Netball & Hockey Centre in Melbourne.
Yet the Tigers' lack of final-quarter resolve allowed the defending champions back into the clash late.
Tigers coach Chris Anstey also pointed to a Vukona as a huge factor in the result.
"Vukona was exceptional on both ends of the floor," he said.
"He was the hardest working player out there by far and his statistics reflect that.
"His numbers against us have been nothing short of all-star.
"The only way you beat Mika is by out-working him, and we haven't had anyone that's stepped up and out-worked him. It's simple."
In his first game replacing injured centre Alex Pledger, television commentator and Tall Black Casey Frank scored nine points and had two rebounds.
- Sunday News
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