NZ Breakers score vital victory over Hawks

12:10, Jan 24 2014
New Zealand Breakers 2013/14 season
Rotnei Clarke of the Hawks lays up the ball under close attention from Tom Abercrombie (left) and Mika Vukona.
New Zealand Breakers 2013/14 season
Daryl Corletto runs on to the court for the Breakers' season-opening game against the Hawks.
New Zealand Breakers 2013/14 season
Kerron Johnson makes a lay-up against the Hawks.
New Zealand Breakers 2013/14 season
Coach Dean Vickerman barks out orders to his team during the opening game against the Hawks.
Breakers 2013/14 gallery
Alex Pledger puts up a shot against the Perth Wildcats.
Breakers 2013/14 gallery
Breakers' coach Dean Vickerman encourages his team against the Wildcats.
Breakers 2013/14 gallery
Breakers' point guard Kerron Johnson passes under pressure from the Wildcats' defence.
Breakers 2013/14 gallery
Mike Vukona puts up a shot against the Wildcats.
New Zealand Breakers 2013/14 season
Breakers forward Mika Vukona gets ready to shoot against the Adelaide 36ers.
New Zealand Breakers 2013/14 season
Breakers forward Reuben Te Rangi, left, takes on Adelaide's Anthony Petrie.
New Zealand Breakers 2013/14 season
Comeback king Gary Wilkinson revels in his return to the Breakers setup.
New Zealand Breakers 2013/14 season
Breakers point guard CJ Bruton, left, and Adelaide's Anthony Petrie compete for the loose ball.
Mika Vukona
Breakers forward Mika Vukona attempts to drive by Greg Vanderjagt.
Gary Wilkinson
Gary Wilkinson led the Breakers with 19 points in the loss in Townsville.
Daryl Corletto
Guard Daryl Corletto drives by Mitch Norton and to the basket.
Dean Vickerman
Dean Vickerman looks on as his side losses for the fifth time in seven games.
Josh Pace
Gary Wilkinson attempts to block the shot of Townsville's Josh Pace.
Mika Vukona
Mika Vukona gets his hand right up in the face of Brian Conklin.
Mika Vukona
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
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.
Mika Vukona
Corey Webster of the Breakers scores during the round eight NBL match between the New Zealand Breakers and the Melbourne Tigers.
Mika Vukona
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,
Mika Vukona
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.
Dean Vickerman
Breakers coach Dean Vickerman takes control of a timeout huddle.
Alex Pledger
Breakers centre Alex Pledger battles with two Tigers players for a rebound.
Breakers 2013/14 gallery
Mika Vukona reacts during the loss to the Perth Wildcats.
Breakers 2013/14 gallery
Tom Abercrombie in action against the Perth Wildcats.
Breakers 2013/14 gallery
Gary Wilkinson puts up a shot.
Breakers 2013/14 gallery
CJ Bruton is recognised for his 500 games in the ANBL.
NZ Breakers 2013/14 season
The Breakers players huddle after the round 11 NBL match between the Sydney Kings and the New Zealand Breakers at Sydney Entertainment Centre.
NZ Breakers 2013/14 season
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.
NZ Breakers 2013/14 season
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.
NZ Breakers 2013/14 season
Thomas Abercrombie of the Breakers dribbles the ball during the round 11 NBL match between the Sydney Kings and the New Zealand Breakers.
NZ Breakers 2013/14 season
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.
Rueben Te Rangi and Kerron Johnson
Rueben Te Rangi and Kerron Johnson attempt to strip the ball from Mitch Creek.
Tom Abercrombie
Tom Abercrombie puts up an off-balanced shot against pressure from Adam Gibson.
Tom Abercrombie
Tom Abercrombie dribbles the ball up-court against Mitch Creek.
Kerron Johnson
Point guard Kerron Johnson pulls down a rebound, as Adam Gibson complains in the background.
Dean Vickerman
Coach Dean Vickerman makes his point during a timeout.
NZ Breakers 2013/14 season
Tom Abercrombie in action for the Breakers against the Hawks.
NZ Breakers 2013/14 season
Mika Vukona looks to pass against the Hawks.
NZ Breakers 2013/14 season
Corey Webster makes a break at the North Shore Events Centre.
NZ Breakers 2013/14 season
Casey Frank of the Breakers, left, and the Hawks' David Gruber contest the ball.
NZ Breakers 2013/14 season
Gary Wilkinson of the Breakers shoots against the Kings.
NZ Breakers 2013/14 season
Mika Vukona looks to get a pass away in Sydney.
NZ Breakers 2013/14 season
Ben Madgen of the Kings drives past the Breakers' defence.
NZ Breakers 2013/14 season
CJ Bruton is all smiles in Sydney.
NZ Breakers 2013/14 season
NZ Breakers import Kerron Johnson taking on the Sydney Kings in Auckland.
NZ Breakers 2013/14 season
Gary Wilkinson of the Breakers throws out a pass against the Kings in Auckland.
NZ Breakers 2013/14 season
Reuben Te Rangi of the Breakers attempts a lay up against the Taipans in Auckland.
NZ Breakers 2013/14 season
Tom Abercrombie is blocked b Matt Burston of the Taipans at Vector Arena in Auckland.
NZ Breakers 2013/14 season
Mika Vukona of the Breakers goes to the bench after getting fouled off against the 36ers.
NZ Breakers 2013/14 season
Gary Wilkinson of the Breakers looks to pass against the 36ers in Adelaide.
NZ Breakers 2013/14 season
Breakers coach Dean Vickerman tries to rally his troops in Adelaide.
NZ Breakers 2013/14 season
Casey Frank of the Breakers reacts after an umpire decision during his team's clash with the Adelaide 36ers.
NZ Breakers 2013/14 season
Breakers head coach Dean Vickerman gives Tom Abercrombie some advice during his side's clash with the Crocs.
NZ Breakers 2013/14 season
Casey Frank returns to the Breakers' bench during the clash with the Crocs on the North Shore.
NZ Breakers 2013/14 season
The Breakers cheerleaders do their routine ahead of their team's clash with the Crocs.
NZ Breakers 2013/14 season
Kerron Johnson of the Breakers speeds past Scott Kenny of the Crocs.
Mika Vukona
Breakers forward Mika Vukona reacts with indignation at a call against him.
Tom Abercrombie
Tom Abercrombie (right) gets some love from team-mate Corey Webster after hitting a three.
Breakers 2014 season
Tom Abercrombie, Daryl Corletto and Casey Frank of the Breakers all look dejected against the Tigers.
Breakers 2014 season
Lucas Walker of the Tigers backs into Gary Wilkinson of the Breakers.
Breakers 2014 season
Corey Webster of the Breakers feels the pressure against the Melbourne Tigers at Vector Arena in Auckland.
Breakers 2014 season
Kerron Johnson of the Breakers goes up against Mark Worthington of the Tigers.
Gary Wilkinson
Gary Wilkinson makes a finger-roll in the lane, two of his game-high 30 points.
Tom Abercrombie
Tom Abercrombie jumps around the Sydney Kings' AJ Ogilvy and looks to pass.
Mika Vukona
Mika Vukona is incredulous after a foul call against him.
CJ Bruton
CJ Bruton thanks Breakers fans after his last game at the North Shore Events Centre.
Breakers NSEC
Breakers fans show their support against the Sydney Kings at the North Shore Events Centre.
CJ Bruton
CJ Bruton acknowledges Breakers fans after his last game with the franchise.
CJ Bruton
CJ Bruton brings the Breakers together for a huddle.
CJ Bruton
Breakers fans hold a sign honouring departing guard CJ Bruton.
Breakers
The Breakers huddle ahead of their final regular season game of the season.

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.

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"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