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Breakers beat Hawks to stay in touch

By Chris Pike
23 January 2014 08:09PM EST

THE three-time defending champion New Zealand Breakers have maintained touch with the NBL top-four with an exciting and high-scoring win at home to the Wollongong Hawks on Thursday.

Despite being in control of the match to open Round 15 NBL action for most of the night at Auckland's North Shore Events Centre, the Hawks hit back hard in the last quarter.

Wollongong hit the front late in the contest but New Zealand steadied down the stretch nailing some big shots and benefitting from some strange foul calls to record the eventual 106-101 victory.

The win was an important one for the Breakers bouncing back the champions of the last three NBL seasons from a 25-point thumping in Perth last Friday night.

The five-point win over Wollongong improves New Zealand to a 7-11 record on the season to move ahead of the now 6-11 Hawks in sixth position trying to chase down the 8-8 Sydney Kings who currently sit in fourth position on the ladder.

Wollongong did find itself in front for the majority of the first quarter, but New Zealand still managed to finish in front 30-26 and then opened up a 12-point advantage with two minutes to go in the opening half.

However, the Hawks closed their deficit to just six by half-time and then the visitors briefly hit the front late in the third period before New Zealand again steadied to lead by three points at three quarter-time.

The Breakers still looked in control leading 90-82 with seven minutes to go in the match on the back of a Corey Webster three-pointer.

The Hawks weren’t done with, though, and with four and-a-half minutes left had tied scores up at 90-90 on the back of eight straight points inspired by import sharpshooter Rotnei Clarke.

Dave Gruber then put Wollongong two points in front and he soon hit another basket to put his team up 95-92 with two minutes remaining.

However, a controversial basket and foul call on Mika Vukona went New Zealand's way to see the scores tied back up at 95-each before four straight Kerron Johnson points put the home team up 99-95.

Gary Wilkinson then hit the game-winning three-pointer for the Breakers to put them up 102-95 and they went on to win 106-101.

Johnson finished as the top-scorer for the Breakers on the night with 21 points and three rebounds.

Tom Abercrombie also had a good night for New Zealand with 20 points and six rebounds while hitting 3-of-5 from three-point territory.

Wilkinson nailed all three of his attempts from long-range on his way to 20 points and four assists while Webster finished with 13 points and five assists, and Vukona 11 points and six rebounds.

Clarke led the way for the Hawks with 23 points on the back of shooting 9-of-18 from the field but only 1-of-6 from downtown.

Kevin Tiggs was Wollongong's top-scorer, though, with 24 points and five rebounds on the back of a supremely efficient 10-of-12 shooting from the floor.

Gruber also had an outstanding for the visitors with 21 points while shooting 8-of-11 from the field.

Point guard Rhys Martin finished with 15 points and three rebounds as well and captain Oscar Forman 11 points to go with five boards.

Round 15 of the NBL will continue on Friday night with a Reptile Rumble at The Swamp between the Townsville Crocodiles and the Cairns Taipans with the Perth Wildcats also taking on the Melbourne Tigers at Perth Arena.

There is no match on Saturday night, but Sunday afternoon hosts two matches with the Sydney Kings taking on the Adelaide 36ers and the Wollongong Hawks facing the Melbourne Tigers.

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