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Taipans, Breakers win NBL thrillers

By Chris Pike
12 January 2013 12:34AM EST

DEFENDING NBL champions New Zealand stormed home to overrun the Townsville Crocodiles while the Cairns Taipans also won an overtime thriller against the Wollongong Hawks on Friday night.

Both victories were come from behind efforts with the Taipans coming back from trailing Wollongong at the WIN Entertainment Centre by 11 points at three quarter-time to force an overtime period and dominate that to win 94-81.

Cairns got off to a fast start to lead 26-16 at quarter-time, but the Hawks steadied in front of their home fans to lead by double-figures by three quarter-time.

However, with key guards Rhys Martin and Lance Hurdle going down with knee injuries, the Hawks were hindered down the last quarter and into overtime, and the Taipans were able to fully capitalise.

The Taipans outscored the Hawks 26-15 in the fourth quarter and then amazingly 15-2 in overtime to record just their fifth win of the season.

The Snakes have actually been reasonable on the road this season winning three of seven games now, but the inexplicable 2-6 home record is why they find themselves at 5-10.

The victory was all the more impressive for Cairns considering star forward Cam Tragardh scored just two points and sharp-shooter Clint Steindl none in just two minutes of court time.

Plenty of others did step up, though, led by 405-game veteran Aaron Grabau who finished with 22 points on the back of an eight-point possession made up of a three-pointer, and five free-throws.

Import forward Shane Edwards scored 16 points to go with nine rebounds with Jamar Wilson scoring 13 and dishing out eight assists. Alex Loughton also scored 13 points and Brad Hill 10.

Wollongong started the season so strongly but injuries continue to be a problem. Tim Coenraad missed the first 14 games of the season with Larry Davidson and Tyson Demos also spending time on the sidelines.

Now just when they are back in the line-up, both Martin and Hurdle go down at the same meaning that if they are out for any length of time then Adris Deleon and Demos will need to step up big time for the Hawks to hold onto fourth position.

That is beginning to look a little shaky. The Hawks started the season so well winning seven of their first eight games, but they have now lost four straight and six of their last seven to be 8-7 and just ahead of the 5-8 Melbourne Tigers.

Against the Taipans, seven players scored in double figures for the Hawks – Glen Saville with 14, Deleon 12, Oscar Forman 11, Davidson 11, Hurdle 10, Coenraad 10 and Dave Gruber 10, but it wasn’t enough in the end.

Then at the Townsville Entertainment Centre, the Crocs looked in control most of the game against New Zealand before turning back the clock to the first half of the season when they had some mind-numbing collapses late in games on their way to a 0-10 record.

That again reared its ugly head in the dying minutes against New Zealand and the two-time defending champions, and in particular Thomas Abercrombie, took full advantage to win 82-78.

After starting the season so poorly with 10 losses, Townsville had built some momentum with five consecutive wins and it looked like being six for much of the night against New Zealand.

Townsville led 45-30 at half-time to be in total control of the contest, but the Breakers had whittled the deficit down to six by the last change and had the calmness down the stretch to finish the job.

The Crocs were still in control in the last couple of minutes, but could not inbound the ball, could not get it successfully inside to big man Luke Nevill and could not successfully bring it up the floor – with a Peter Crawford turnover leading to an Abercrombie three proving to be the final dagger.

Rebounding was the other big reason the Crocodiles let a likely victory slip managing just 18 for the entire game opposed to 44 by the Breakers. That is the lowest by any team since the Gold Coast Cougars had 17 against Perth in 1990.

Abercrombie was the star down the stretch for the Breakers finishing with 19 points. He was happy with how he was feeling taking all the big shots down the stretch, and was delighted to help the Breakers to a fourth straight road win to remain on top of the ladder.

"I was just trying to be aggressive and take things that were given to me. My shot felt good so I kept taking them," Abercrombie said.

"We've been finding ways to win on the road and it hasn’t been pretty at times, but we have been winning on the road. We kept grinding and found ways to get stops, and came up with some big buckets at the end.

"We traditionally haven’t done well over this stretch away from home, but we wanted to come out and prove a point this year and we've done that now to take into our momentum back home next week."

As well as Abercrombie's heroics, Alex Pledger had 10 points and nine rebounds for the Breakers, Cedric Jackson 10 points, 10 boards and eight assists, and Will Hudson 10 points and eight rebounds.

Former league MVP Gary Ervin continued his outstanding form for the Crocs with 29 points and four assists. Nevill also had 20 points, Michael Cedar 11 and Todd Blanchfield 10.

Round 14 of the 2012-13 NBL season concludes on Sunday with the Perth Wildcats hosting the Melbourne Tigers at Perth Arena, and the Adelaide 36ers taking on the Sydney Kings at Adelaide Arena.

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