NZ Breakers score vital victory over Hawks

CJ Bruton acknowledges Breakers fans after his last game with the franchise.
CJ Bruton acknowledges Breakers fans after his last game with the franchise.
Breakers fans hold a sign honouring departing guard CJ Bruton.
Breakers fans hold a sign honouring departing guard CJ Bruton.
The Breakers huddle ahead of their final regular season game of the season.
The Breakers huddle ahead of their final regular season game of the season.
CJ Bruton brings the Breakers together for a huddle.
CJ Bruton brings the Breakers together for a huddle.
CJ Bruton thanks Breakers fans after his last game at the North Shore Events Centre.
CJ Bruton thanks Breakers fans after his last game at the North Shore Events Centre.
Gary Wilkinson makes a finger-roll in the lane, two of his game-high 30 points.
Gary Wilkinson makes a finger-roll in the lane, two of his game-high 30 points.
Mika Vukona is incredulous after a foul call against him.
Mika Vukona is incredulous after a foul call against him.
Tom Abercrombie jumps around the Sydney Kings' AJ Ogilvy and looks to pass.
Tom Abercrombie jumps around the Sydney Kings' AJ Ogilvy and looks to pass.
Breakers fans show their support against the Sydney Kings at the North Shore Events Centre.
Breakers fans show their support against the Sydney Kings at the North Shore Events Centre.
Tom Abercrombie, Daryl Corletto and Casey Frank of the Breakers all look dejected against the Tigers.
Tom Abercrombie, Daryl Corletto and Casey Frank of the Breakers all look dejected against the Tigers.
Lucas Walker of the Tigers backs into Gary Wilkinson of the Breakers.
Lucas Walker of the Tigers backs into Gary Wilkinson of the Breakers.
Corey Webster of the Breakers feels the pressure against the Melbourne Tigers at Vector Arena in Auckland.
Corey Webster of the Breakers feels the pressure against the Melbourne Tigers at Vector Arena in Auckland.
Kerron Johnson of the Breakers goes up against Mark Worthington of the Tigers.
Kerron Johnson of the Breakers goes up against Mark Worthington of the Tigers.
Tom Abercrombie (right) gets some love from team-mate Corey Webster after hitting a three.
Tom Abercrombie (right) gets some love from team-mate Corey Webster after hitting a three.
Breakers forward Mika Vukona reacts with indignation at a call against him.
Breakers forward Mika Vukona reacts with indignation at a call against him.
The Breakers cheerleaders do their routine ahead of their team's clash with the Crocs.
The Breakers cheerleaders do their routine ahead of their team's clash with the Crocs.
Kerron Johnson of the Breakers speeds past Scott Kenny of the Crocs.
Kerron Johnson of the Breakers speeds past Scott Kenny of the Crocs.
Casey Frank returns to the Breakers' bench during the clash with the Crocs on the North Shore.
Casey Frank returns to the Breakers' bench during the clash with the Crocs on the North Shore.
Breakers head coach Dean Vickerman gives Tom Abercrombie some advice during his side's clash with the Crocs.
Breakers head coach Dean Vickerman gives Tom Abercrombie some advice during his side's clash with the Crocs.
Casey Frank of the Breakers reacts after an umpire decision during his team's clash with the Adelaide 36ers.
Casey Frank of the Breakers reacts after an umpire decision during his team's clash with the Adelaide 36ers.
Breakers coach Dean Vickerman tries to rally his troops in Adelaide.
Breakers coach Dean Vickerman tries to rally his troops in Adelaide.
Gary Wilkinson of the Breakers looks to pass against the 36ers in Adelaide.
Gary Wilkinson of the Breakers looks to pass against the 36ers in Adelaide.
Mika Vukona of the Breakers goes to the bench after getting fouled off against the 36ers.
Mika Vukona of the Breakers goes to the bench after getting fouled off against the 36ers.
Tom Abercrombie is blocked b Matt Burston of the Taipans at Vector Arena in Auckland.
Tom Abercrombie is blocked b Matt Burston of the Taipans at Vector Arena in Auckland.
Reuben Te Rangi of the Breakers attempts a lay up against the Taipans in Auckland.
Reuben Te Rangi of the Breakers attempts a lay up against the Taipans in Auckland.
Gary Wilkinson of the Breakers shoots against the Kings.
Gary Wilkinson of the Breakers shoots against the Kings.
Mika Vukona looks to get a pass away in Sydney.
Mika Vukona looks to get a pass away in Sydney.
Ben Madgen of the Kings drives past the Breakers' defence.
Ben Madgen of the Kings drives past the Breakers' defence.
CJ Bruton is all smiles in Sydney.
CJ Bruton is all smiles in Sydney.
Gary Wilkinson of the Breakers throws out a pass against the Kings in Auckland.
Gary Wilkinson of the Breakers throws out a pass against the Kings in Auckland.
NZ Breakers import Kerron Johnson taking on the Sydney Kings in Auckland.
NZ Breakers import Kerron Johnson taking on the Sydney Kings in Auckland.
Casey Frank of the Breakers, left, and the Hawks' David Gruber contest the ball.
Casey Frank of the Breakers, left, and the Hawks' David Gruber contest the ball.
Corey Webster makes a break at the North Shore Events Centre.
Corey Webster makes a break at the North Shore Events Centre.
Mika Vukona looks to pass against the Hawks.
Mika Vukona looks to pass against the Hawks.
Tom Abercrombie in action for the Breakers against the Hawks.
Tom Abercrombie in action for the Breakers against the Hawks.
Rueben Te Rangi and Kerron Johnson attempt to strip the ball from Mitch Creek.
Rueben Te Rangi and Kerron Johnson attempt to strip the ball from Mitch Creek.
Tom Abercrombie puts up an off-balanced shot against pressure from Adam Gibson.
Tom Abercrombie puts up an off-balanced shot against pressure from Adam Gibson.
Tom Abercrombie dribbles the ball up-court against Mitch Creek.
Tom Abercrombie dribbles the ball up-court against Mitch Creek.
Point guard Kerron Johnson pulls down a rebound, as Adam Gibson complains in the background.
Point guard Kerron Johnson pulls down a rebound, as Adam Gibson complains in the background.
Coach Dean Vickerman makes his point during a timeout.
Coach Dean Vickerman makes his point during a timeout.
Kerron Johnson of the Breakers passes the ball during the round 11 NBL match between the Sydney Kings and the New Zealand Breakers at Sydney Entertainment Centre.
Kerron Johnson of the Breakers passes the ball during the round 11 NBL match between the Sydney Kings and the New Zealand Breakers at Sydney Entertainment Centre.
Thomas Abercrombie of the Breakers dribbles the ball during the round 11 NBL match between the Sydney Kings and the New Zealand Breakers.
Thomas Abercrombie of the Breakers dribbles the ball during the round 11 NBL match between the Sydney Kings and the New Zealand Breakers.
Tom Garlepp of the Kings (R) contests with Mika Vukona of the Breakers during the round 11 NBL match between the Sydney Kings and the New Zealand Breakers.
Tom Garlepp of the Kings (R) contests with Mika Vukona of the Breakers during the round 11 NBL match between the Sydney Kings and the New Zealand Breakers.
James Harvey of the Kings takes on Calvin Bruton of the Breakers during the round 11 NBL match between the Sydney Kings and the New Zealand Breakers.
James Harvey of the Kings takes on Calvin Bruton of the Breakers during the round 11 NBL match between the Sydney Kings and the New Zealand Breakers.
The Breakers players huddle after the round 11 NBL match between the Sydney Kings and the New Zealand Breakers at Sydney Entertainment Centre.
The Breakers players huddle after the round 11 NBL match between the Sydney Kings and the New Zealand Breakers at Sydney Entertainment Centre.
Mika Vukona reacts during the loss to the Perth Wildcats.
Mika Vukona reacts during the loss to the Perth Wildcats.
Tom Abercrombie in action against the Perth Wildcats.
Tom Abercrombie in action against the Perth Wildcats.
Gary Wilkinson puts up a shot.
Gary Wilkinson puts up a shot.
CJ Bruton is recognised for his 500 games in the ANBL.
CJ Bruton is recognised for his 500 games in the ANBL.
Breakers centre Alex Pledger battles with two Tigers players for a rebound.
Breakers centre Alex Pledger battles with two Tigers players for a rebound.
Breakers coach Dean Vickerman takes control of a timeout huddle.
Breakers coach Dean Vickerman takes control of a timeout huddle.
Corey Webster of the Breakers scores during the round eight NBL match between the New Zealand Breakers and the Melbourne Tigers.
Corey Webster of the Breakers scores during the round eight NBL match between the New Zealand Breakers and the Melbourne Tigers.
Mika Vukona of the Breakers secures a rebound during the round eight NBL match between the New Zealand Breakers and the Melbourne Tigers.
Mika Vukona of the Breakers secures a rebound during the round eight NBL match between the New Zealand Breakers and the Melbourne Tigers.
Gary Wilkinson of the Breakers high fives his team-mates before the round eight NBL match between the New Zealand Breakers and the Melbourne Tigers.
Gary Wilkinson of the Breakers high fives his team-mates before the round eight NBL match between the New Zealand Breakers and the Melbourne Tigers.
Corey Webster, Mika Vukona, Alex Pledger, Kerron Johnson and Thomas Abercrombie of the Breakers look to the bench for instructions as they gather together after scoring during the round eight NBL match between the New Zealand Breakers and the Melbourne Tigers,
Corey Webster, Mika Vukona, Alex Pledger, Kerron Johnson and Thomas Abercrombie of the Breakers look to the bench for instructions as they gather together after scoring during the round eight NBL match between the New Zealand Breakers and the Melbourne Tigers,
Lucas Walker of the Melbourne Tigers shoots over Reuben Te Rangi of the Breakers during the round eight NBL match between the New Zealand Breakers and the Melbourne Tigers.
Lucas Walker of the Melbourne Tigers shoots over Reuben Te Rangi of the Breakers during the round eight NBL match between the New Zealand Breakers and the Melbourne Tigers.
Breakers forward Mika Vukona attempts to drive by Greg Vanderjagt.
Breakers forward Mika Vukona attempts to drive by Greg Vanderjagt.
Gary Wilkinson attempts to block the shot of Townsville's Josh Pace.
Gary Wilkinson attempts to block the shot of Townsville's Josh Pace.
Mika Vukona gets his hand right up in the face of Brian Conklin.
Mika Vukona gets his hand right up in the face of Brian Conklin.
Guard Daryl Corletto drives by Mitch Norton and to the basket.
Guard Daryl Corletto drives by Mitch Norton and to the basket.
Dean Vickerman looks on as his side losses for the fifth time in seven games.
Dean Vickerman looks on as his side losses for the fifth time in seven games.
Gary Wilkinson led the Breakers with 19 points in the loss in Townsville.
Gary Wilkinson led the Breakers with 19 points in the loss in Townsville.
Breakers point guard CJ Bruton, left, and Adelaide's Anthony Petrie compete for the loose ball.
Breakers point guard CJ Bruton, left, and Adelaide's Anthony Petrie compete for the loose ball.
Comeback king Gary Wilkinson revels in his return to the Breakers setup.
Comeback king Gary Wilkinson revels in his return to the Breakers setup.
Breakers forward Reuben Te Rangi, left, takes on Adelaide's Anthony Petrie.
Breakers forward Reuben Te Rangi, left, takes on Adelaide's Anthony Petrie.
Breakers forward Mika Vukona gets ready to shoot against the Adelaide 36ers.
Breakers forward Mika Vukona gets ready to shoot against the Adelaide 36ers.
Mike Vukona puts up a shot against the Wildcats.
Mike Vukona puts up a shot against the Wildcats.
Breakers' point guard Kerron Johnson passes under pressure from the Wildcats' defence.
Breakers' point guard Kerron Johnson passes under pressure from the Wildcats' defence.
Breakers' coach Dean Vickerman encourages his team against the Wildcats.
Breakers' coach Dean Vickerman encourages his team against the Wildcats.
Alex Pledger puts up a shot against the Perth Wildcats.
Alex Pledger puts up a shot against the Perth Wildcats.
Daryl Corletto runs on to the court for the Breakers' season-opening game against the Hawks.
Daryl Corletto runs on to the court for the Breakers' season-opening game against the Hawks.
Kerron Johnson makes a lay-up against the Hawks.
Kerron Johnson makes a lay-up against the Hawks.
Coach Dean Vickerman barks out orders to his team during the opening game against the Hawks.
Coach Dean Vickerman barks out orders to his team during the opening game against the Hawks.
Rotnei Clarke of the Hawks lays up the ball under close attention from Tom Abercrombie (left) and Mika Vukona.
Rotnei Clarke of the Hawks lays up the ball under close attention from Tom Abercrombie (left) and Mika Vukona.

Kerron Johnson was up for this one and the little Breakers import delivered a much-needed game-winning performance for his club at the NSEC tonight.

Johnson, going up against his old college rival, sparked the Breakers to a thrilling 106-101 victory over the Wollongong Hawks that was in doubt until the southpaw from Belmont University took over in the final minutes.

With Clarke, the pride of fellow mid-major Butler University, coming up big in the second half for the Hawks, Johnson picked a good time to produce a special response as he spurred the Breakers to a come-from-behind victory in the final quarter.

The win improves the threepeat champions to 7-11 and drops the Hawks to 6-11 for the season. It’s their third straight victory over Wollongong this season and extends a streak that stretches back to February of 2012.

Johnson was huge down the stretch for the Breakers as he poured in seven late points, including a dagger three-pointer with a minute left. He finished with 21 points (6/14 FG, 3/7 3PT) and three rebounds to spearhead a solid all-round offensive display from the Breakers.

The point guard also showed some welcome fire in the belly, demonstrated vividly when he made a big block on a Clarke drive and came up talking to his rival.

"It was a big matchup for us, and I was really up for it," said Johnson afterwards. "I just wanted to try and make everything hard, and he made a few shots and I made a few shots and it got a little spirited there for a minute.

"But we’re both competitors, and that’s what I have to be for this team, and we ended up coming out on top."

Vickerman was full of praise for his import’s heady display which backed up a similar closing effort in the road win at Sydney.

"He knocked his free-throws down tonight which was really pleasing. It was also pleasing to see him shoot the three-ball, which is something we’ve always felt is in there, and tonight he made threes, along with Reuben [Te Rangi], Corey and some of the other guys who shot the ball well."

Johnson’s fellow import Gary Wilkinson also hit a big-time late triple to finish with 20 points (7/10 FG, 3/3 3PT), two boards and four assists in another impressive display, while springy small forward Tom Abercrombie produced a timely return to form with 20 points (7/13 FG, 3/5 3PT) and six rebounds for the winners.

Corey Webster also found his stroke off the bench to knock down five of his eight shots for 13 points, while Mika Vukona added 11 points, six rebounds and two assists, and made a massive three-point play that levelled the scores at 95-95 inside the last two minutes.

Youngster Te Rangi’s three straight third-quarter triples were also highlighted by both camps as massive momentum changers, right at a time the Breakers had gone off the boil.

The Hawks were paced by a monster 24 points (10/12 FG) from powerhouse small forward Kevin Tiggs, while Clarke shook off a slow start (he had just four points at the half) to finish with 23 points with his usual dazzling array of off-balance shots. The hard-working David Gruber weighed in with 21 points on eight-of-11 shooting for the visitors.

It was a huge result for the Breakers who led by as many as 12 in the second quarter, but could never quite shake the Hawks loose. They have to start racking up the wins and after getting themselves in a tight spot late, found a way out of it, largely thanks to Johnson’s timely display of assertiveness.

The Kiwi club shot an impressive 56 percent from the field and 58 from three-point land, but struggled to contain the Hawks who also shot 56 percent overall.

Next up are the Sydney Kings at Vector next Thursday and Vickerman still isn’t sure whether Alex Pledger will be able to return from his ankle injury. If not, they certainly have an able replacement in Casey Frank who had six points, five boards and three assists in a valuable turn off the bench. 

NZ Breakers 106 (Kerron Johnson 21, Tom Abercrombie 20, Gary Wilkinson 20, Corey Webster 13, Mika Vukona 11) Wollongong Hawks 101 (Kevin Tiggs 24, Rotnei Clarke 23, David Gruber 21, Rhys Martin 15, Oscar Forman 11). 1Q: 30-26; HT: 55-49; 3Q: 81-78.

Fairfax Media