Tag: new zealand breakers

Phoenix effectively secure finals spot with road win over Breakers

SOUTH East Melbourne Phoenix have all but secured their spot in the 2021 National Basketball League (NBL) finals with a hard-fought five-point win on the road against New Zealand Breakers. The Phoenix desperately needed the victory with the Sydney Kings and Brisbane Bullets closing in, and the win handed them that spot, with an 80-point loss to Brisbane on Monday the only thing that could knock the Phoenix out of the top four.

In the match against the Breakers, neither side gained too much ascendancy early, both putting 26 points on the board. It was the second term where the Phoenix broke away, once again scoring 26 points, but restricting the Breakers to just 16, in order to secure a 10-point half-time lead. The teams were once again all square in the third term with 15 points apiece, and whilst the home team did put up a fight in the final stanza with a 21-16 quarter, it would not be enough as the Phoenix reigned supreme, 83-78.

Leading for the majority of the match aside from some brief passages of play in the first term, the Phoenix unsurprisingly lead the majority of the statistics. Shooting at a higher field goal percentage (45 to 40 per cent), the Phoenix also had more rebounds (44-34), assists (15-12) and blocks. They got in the paint more (40-30), and capitalised on second chance points (15-7). With rotations becoming a premium, the Phoenix also had 10 more points from the bench (21-11). New Zealand had three less turnovers (7-10), and they were able to marginally get more points from turnovers (8-6). The Breakers also had more steals (7-3) and had one less personal foul (17-18).

South East Melbourne Phoenix were lead by Keifer Sykes who put up a match-high 29 points, as well as seven rebounds and five assists in a standout performance. The points were otherwise shared around with Ben Moore making the most of his 19 minutes off the bench with 11 points, nine rebounds and two blocks, while Reuben Te Rangi had 10 points and four rebounds as the other player to reach double-figure points.

Of the other Phoenix players who added solid contributions despite being down on their season averages, Ryan Broekhoff (eight points, 10 rebounds and two blocks), Yannick Wetzell (eight points, six rebounds and three assists), Mitch Creek (seven points, four rebounds and three assists) and Kyle Adnam (seven points) all shared the rock around.

For the Breakers, Tai Webster lead the way with 26 points – including three of eight from long-range – four rebounds and three steals. Finn Delany (18 points, seven rebounds and four assists) and Colton Iverson (10 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks) also shone across the board, while William McDowell-White (eight points, three rebounds and three assists) and Rasmus Bach (Seven points) had a fair outing.

New Zealand Breakers’ season comes to close with the loss in what has been an undoubtedly challenging campaign after so many road games before being allowed to return home. For the Phoenix, they have an all-bar-certain finals campaign to look forward to, but first have Brisbane Breakers, and barring an 80-plus point loss, they will play in the post-season series. Win, and the Phoenix will jump to third and take on Perth Wildcats in the semi-finals series.

Picture credit: Phil Walter/Getty Images

Breakers collect tight home win to end Taipans’ season

NEW Zealand Breakers have started off their final round of the National Basketball League (NBL) 2021 season in style, claiming a six-point win over wooden spooners Cairns Taipans. In the Taipans’ final game of the year, the Breakers were made to earn the victory, trailing at half-time and the final break before finishing with a head of steam thanks to a dominant fourth quarter to win 84-78.

The home team started strongly in the match, piling on 25 point to 16 to open up a nine-point advantage. In what proved to be the complete counter-contrast of the opening quarter, Cairns dominated the second term with a 26-16 quarter and raced into pole position with a narrow one-point advantage. They Taipans added to their lead by three more with a 17-14 term, but then the Breakers peaked at the right time. Just as the Taipans looked to run away with it early in the fourth, the Breakers fought their way back to build an almost unassailable lead of their own. Cairns brought it back to within a couple of points with 25 seconds on the clock, but a Colton Iverson layup and set of Corey Webster free-throws locked up the 84-78 victory.

The Taipans actually shot more efficiently, with a 54 to 51 per cent efficiency from inside the arc, helping lead to a 47 to 45 per cent overall field goal efficiency. They also won the points in the paint (34-28), and marginally won the steals (7-6) and bench points (19-18), as well as the points from turnover (16-10), made all the more impressive from equal turnovers (10-apiece). New Zealand won many of the key statistics with a dominance in the rebound count (41-30) and second chance points (15-2), as well as winning the assists (17-15) and blocks (5-3) in an overall impressive effort.

Tai Webster put up 23 points, five rebounds and three assists to lead the Breakers from a points perspective, as brother Corey hit up 16 points, four assists and two rebounds to share the load. The dominant player on the night was Iverson, who knocked down six of seven from two-point range on his way to 15 points and 12 rebounds, collecting a double-double as well as two steals and two blocks. Finn Delany (10 points, 10 rebounds and three assists) also had a double-double, while Levi Randolph (11 points, two rebounds) recorded double-figure points.

For the Taipans, Scott Machado did all her could with 21 points – including three of seven from long-range – 10 assists and five rebounds. Nate Jawai (14 points, eight rebounds and two blocks) continued his resurgence in the league, while Majok Deng (11 points) also had double-figure points. Mirko Djeric (seven points, three rebounds) was next best, with New Zealand talents Jordan Hunt (seven points), Jordan Ngatai (six) and Jarrod Kenny (six) also solid.

New Zealand Breakers host South East Melbourne Phoenix on Saturday evening at The Trusts Arena to close out their season, whilst Cairns Taipans head off into the off-season and will have a new coach next year, with the club parting ways with Mike Kelly after their disappointing season.

Picture credit: Mead Norton/Getty Images

Finals hopes still kicking for Bullets after win over Breakers

THE Brisbane Bullets have kept their National Basketball League (NBL) playoff dreams alive with a 12-point victory over the New Zealand Breakers at Spark Arena on Sunday night. It was the Breakers’ highly anticipated return to Auckland’s Spark Arena, having been stationed in Australia since the implementation of COVID-19 restrictions in early 2020. A 7612 strong crowd proved vocal, with Breakers fans fired up to finally see their team play in person, but the Bullets proved unfazed by this, spoiling the celebrations with a win set up by a remarkably strong first half performance.

The Breakers opened the game in style, jumping to an early six-point lead, and the feisty New Zealand crowd began letting the visitors know about it. The Bullets displayed their mental toughness, ignoring the crowd and knocking down jump shot after jump shot to snatch the lead from the home side. Suddenly, the first term was over and the Bullets’ lead was up to six points, thanks to a late first quarter Nathan Sobey basket. The Breakers crowd began to quieten down, but still rallied behind their side heading into the second period. Unfortunately for these fans, the second quarter belonged to the Bullets, with the side dominating for all 10 minutes, outscoring their opponents by 13 in the quarter. While the Breakers would occasionally knock down a much-needed bucket, drawing a vocal response from the crowd, the Bullets would come right back with three unanswered makes of their own, extending the lead even further. The Bullets were absolutely clinical in the period, as Spark Arena was suddenly silenced as their side fell to a 19-point deficit at half time, with plenty of work to do.

The Breakers came out of half time with a new strategy of turning the game in their favour; launching shots from deep. New Zealand put up a whopping 32 shots from behind the three-point line, only landing 10 of them. While the signs were more promising than the first half, the damage was unfortunately done in the first half. The Breakers gave it one last push in the final term, outplaying their opponents in this time, but by this stage, the Bullets had put the game into cruise control. The Bullets ended up claiming their 16th win of the year, with a final score line of 95-83.

For the victors, it was a team effort, with four players scoring 14 points or more. Lamar Patterson led all scorers with 21 points, but also adding eight rebounds and five assists. Teammates Matthew Hodgson (16 points), Nathan Sobey (15 points) and BJ Johnson (14 points) also contributed a healthy number of points. For the Breakers, Levi Randolph was the standout, pouring in a game-high 30 points while shooting an efficient 11-18 from the field.

The Bullets have pumped some life into their finals chances, as they continue their hunt for the final spot in the playoffs. They will still need to win their final three games, and have certain other results fall their way, but all they can do at the moment is beat the teams in front of them. This campaign will continue on Wednesday night, as they attempt to upset the South East Melbourne Phoenix at John Cain Arena. The Breakers will also suit up on Wednesday night as they take on the Cairns Taipans at Energy Events Arena.

Photo credit: Hannah Peters

Harvey leads Hawks to crucial Breakers scalp

THE Illawarra Hawks found themselves one step closer to securing a National Basketball League (NBL) finals spot, thanks to their 11-point triumph over the New Zealand Breakers at the Stockyard on Friday night. This loomed as a danger game for the Hawks, given the pressure on them to claim a spot in the top four, but they handled the pressure with absolute class, thanks to a standout performance from Tyler Harvey who was instrumental in the team’s 18th win of the season.

The game began with the Breakers jumping to an early lead, thanks to some impressive play from captain Finn Delany. Delany had six points in the first term, as his side worked hard on both ends of the floor to secure a five-point lead at quarter time, courtesy of a Levi Randolph three-pointer with 20 seconds remaining in the term. The Hawks looked shocked, but not rattled. Hawks forward Sam Froling kept his side in the contest during this time, credit to his ability to constantly finish at the rim, despite the consistent pressure from the Breakers defenders. The second term opened with some pretty ugly basketball, with both teams trading missed buckets and silly turnovers. There was just one field goal scored in the first couple of minutes of play. The Breakers found themselves up by eight points halfway through the term, but could not sustain the lead, as Froling once again led a charge that could not be stopped. The Hawks headed into halftime trailing by just three points and with plenty of confidence.

The second half (and particularly the third term) was the Illawarra Hawks show, as the visitors worked their way to a significant run that saw them take the lead for the first time this game. A 13-0 run of scoring saw the Hawks well and truly take control of the game, with the Breakers unable to hit crucial baskets or grab the defensive rebound. The home side looked stunned, and lost all of the mojo that saw them control the game in the first half. The fourth quarter saw more of the same, as the Hawks were able to put the game into cruise control as they sealed the result early in the final term. The Breakers only got within six points in the term, before a pair of Harvey triples put the game to bed, with the Hawks heading home victors.

For the Hawks, Harvey was the star, finishing with 30 points, eight rebounds and five steals, proving the guard can get it done on both ends of the court. He was not alone, with Froling proving nearly just as dangerous with 22 points and eight rebounds of his own. The forward did most of his work in the first half when the game was hanging in the balance. Without his scoring output, the Hawks may not have been in a position to catapult in front like they did. For the Breakers, Delany played a lone hand at times, but his first half was telling, as his side looked to cause an upset. The forward finished with 22 points in a brave performance.

The Breakers will look to bounce back as they take on the Brisbane Bullets on Sunday night at Spark Arena, while the Hawks will face the Adelaide 36ers on Sunday night as they look to edge even closer to the finals.

Photo credit: Phil Walter/Getty images

New Zealand topple 36ers in Christchurch

NEW Zealand got the job done against Adelaide 36ers to secure another NBL win and proving just how influential a home crowd is running away with an 18-point victory 94-76. A dominant second term gave the home side the upper hand they needed to control proceedings and eventually claim the win.

Despite playing back in New Zealand, the Breakers have still travelled around a lot with last night’s contest taking place in Christchurch. But in front of a boisterous crowd of roughly 3000 fans the Breakers put on a show, although it took a while for them to get going given the evenness of the first term. Finn Delany was the first to get points on the board nailing a layup while Adelaide 36ers captain Daniel Dillon quickly answered the call with a layup of his own signalling the intent coming from both sides. The Breakers skipped out to an early sixpoint lead thanks to some strong shooting but Adelaide were determined to put up a good fight as Dillon and Tony Crocker worked their magic.

Only three points separated the two sides at quarter time but a shift in the tides saw the Breakers come out with a real sense of purpose in the second. It was blow for blow to start the term with Jack McVeigh and Corey Webster finding their groove for their respective sides. In fact, Adelaide started to work their way back into the contest drawing level at the seven-minute mark of the quarter before a flick switched for the home side. New Zealand’s increased pressure and desire to drive to the rim was the difference as the Breakers took the game on led by Webster and William McDowell-White. Webster was running hot sinking consecutive triples and it was not long until youngster Kyrin Galloway got in on the action landing a three of his own. It was turning into a shooting clinic for the Breakers while Adelaide simply could not muster enough offensive power to trouble the scoreboard as the scoreboard ballooned out to a 14-point margin.

The third quarter swung in momentum once again as the 36ers wrestled back a bit of control and stopped the attacking prowess of the Breakers. Daniel Johnson worked hard to keep his side within touching distance while Brandon Paul also inserted himself in the thick of things to cull the margin to 11 points midway through the quarter. But their hard work was quickly undone by the hot hand of Colton Iverson as he blew the lead back out to 16 points. This seesawing affair continued for majority of the quarter before Johnson well and truly assumed control sinking six consecutive points. This proved to be the changing point in the quarter as it inspired the likes of Dillon, Levi Randolph and Crocker to up the ante to round out the term and only go into the break down by 11 points.

With it all to play for in the final term it was the Breakers who had the last laugh. Riding a wave in the third the home side stood tall in the final to repel Adelaide’s attacking forays and convert on their own chances. Piling on 22 points to 15 the Breakers were in the driver’s seat for majority of the quarter as the big names in Iverson, Delany and Webster all made a lasting impression while youngster Galloway showed a glimpse of what he is capable of with a huge dunk to really romp home the win.

Coming off the bench, Corey Webster led the charge with 22 points at 66 per cent from the field while his brother Tai only managed five points in his 24 minutes but still reeled in six rebounds and two assists. Randolph proved to be a force to be reckoned with knocking back 17 points and collecting six rebounds as McDowell-White nailed eight points and nine assists. Both Delany and Iverson impressed with 14 points apiece with the latter making the most of his opportunities to shoot at 85 per cent from the field. Iverson also collected eight rebounds as Delany registered six boards. For Adelaide, Dillon was the main man, producing 22 points at 75 per cent from the field while McVeigh was also influential with 13 points off the bench. Johnson was his usual consistent self, thanks to his 18 points and six rebounds as Paul finished with eight points and seven rebounds to his name in the loss.

Photo credit: Kai Schwoerer

Kings rise to occasion to pip Breakers in New Zealand

SYDNEY Kings have kept themselves in contention for a playoffs spot after coming good in the final term to overrun the New Zealand Breakers in the National Basketball League (NBL) contest last night. Locking horns at TSB Stadium, the Kings found themselves trailing for the majority of the night, before piling on 25 points to 15 in the last term to secure the five-point victory, 81-76.

Aside from a brief moment in the third term, the Kings trailed the Breakers from early in the first term until midway through the last quarter, with the home team having all the momentum. Though the Breakers did hold the lead, it never got beyond single-digits as the Kings kept in touch and as it happened, within striking distance. The visitors did not strike until the final term, trailing by five points at the last change, then won the final term by 10 points to turn that deficit into a final winning margin.

At one stage the teams were 70-apiece, with the Kings piling on 11 of the last 16 points to end the game strongly and run out victors. They dominated the rebounds (53-39), and had less personal fouls (19-27), but more remarkably outscored the Breakers from turnovers (13-12) despite having five more turnovers themselves (13-8). They also had more points in the paint (36-28) and second chance points (18-10), while the Breakers won the assist count (17-11), steals (7-0) and blocks (4-3) in a gallant effort.

Jarrell Martin put up 29 points and nine rebounds, whilst there were plenty of supporting acts off the boards. Jordan Hunter (14 points, seven rebounds), Xavier Cooks (seven points, seven rebounds) and Shaun Bruce (five points, seven rebounds and five assists) all stood up close to the basket, as Craig Moller influenced off the bench in the same way with five points and eight rebounds in the win. Casper Ware did not hit a triple from five attempts, but managed 15 points, two rebounds and two assists.

For the Breakers, Levi Randolph had 25 points and five rebounds, whilst Corey Webster came off the bench for 13 points and four rebounds. Tai Webster managed the 12 points, seven rebounds, five assists and three steals in an all-round performance, as Colton Iverson (10 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three blocks) and William McDowell-White (10 points, three assists and two rebounds) also reached double-figure points.

Sydney Kings coach Adam Forde said he was pleased his side remained in the hunt for playoffs, but could not stop now with some tough games against the finals-bound teams in the last two weeks.

“It is almost like boss levels,” he said. “These guys are tough, I can’t emphasise that enough. We split here, that is the first level. “The next weekend we play Perth in Perth, and then we host Melbourne 48 hours later. In the last round, we play Brisbane and Illawarra, who are in the same position that we are. The best thing is that it’s on us, we can’t blame anyone else … win or lose, it is solely on us.”

Whilst Sydney have the break before taking on those top two sides, the Breakers host another game, playing Adelaide 36ers at Christchurch Arena on Tuesday.

Picture credit: Elias Rodriguez/Getty Images

Season reaches climax, Hawks aiming to soar into top four

JUST over a handful of contests remain on the Illawarra Hawks’ agenda to conclude the NBL21 season and it is safe to say that the Wollongong-based side is starting to feel the heat of the moment.

With an even record of 15 wins and 15 losses this late in the campaign, it has certainly made for an entertaining finals race for five of the competition’s nine teams. Illawarra’s balanced win-loss line is also the result of a litany of hot streaks that opponents have been displaying consistently from the opening round.

While the Hawks’ 4-0 start to the season had many basketball fans shocked to begin with, slowly and steadily Illawarra have slid deep into the belly of the standings, but still remain heavy favourites to complete their bounce-back season after finishing with the wooden spoon last year.

A main proponent for Illawarra’s success-filled results so far is their ability to hold down the fort at home. At WIN Entertainment Centre, the Hawks have maintained an eight-win and six-loss record at home. The problem, however, is emerging from away games with positive results. Relinquishing nine contests to date while winning seven others on the road, Illawarra will need to pull off some more wins in enemy territory during the final run home.

Speaking of which, following Illawarra’s loss to Melbourne United back on Tuesday night, the Hawks have five different sides still to face in six games before the semi-finals kick off. The first of which are the Adelaide 36ers in South Australia, as the Birds currently stand an unlikely chance of closing the distance between themselves and Illawarra.

Illawarra can hopefully continue to march forward when they end Round 19 against the lowly Cairns Taipans, before facing the New Zealand Breakers the following Friday and the 36ers once again two days later the Sunday of that week.

The 21st and final round will see the Hawks make their final stand at home and given the way that the standings are shaping up, it could mean a pivotal last weekend of basketball for the entire NBL as the side face the Perth Wildcats and the Kings.

Beating many of these sides will be a tough ask for Coach Brian Goorjian’s men, but it has been well-documented that when the team works together collectively, they are formidable to say the least.

Leading the way statistically so far this season remains import guard Tyler Harvey and his 19.8 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game, as he has shown he is the real deal at Australia’s topflight. Despite a less than substantial 10-point effort in his last time out against Melbourne, Harvey frequents scoring amounts north of 20 paired with a lethal floater game to accompany his skillset. These numbers will come in handy if he can replicate this form over the next few weeks.

By Harvey’s side are fellow backcourt members Justinian Jessup and Justin Simon. Being one of the NBL’s biggest standouts amongst the rookie class, Jessup’s exemplary shooting remains the 22-year-old’s major weapon on the floor. He currently averages a solid 14 points per game alongside 3.8 rebounds and 1.8 assists. Simon’s contributions also tell a similar story with the second of the two imports making his presence felt around the league, just around the corner from the finals, stringing together averages of 9.1 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.9 assists.

One of the big questions surrounding the mid-season arrival of Cameron Bairstow was his ability to make a significant impact down low in the post. Having played 14 games since his debut this season, Bairstow has been more than potent during his minutes on the floor. Having put up over 11 points and six rebounds per game, it is unfortunate that the former Chicago Bull will be sidelined for the rest of the campaign with a hip issue.

Recently retired Tim Coenraad made his return to the NBL after the end of last season, to replace Bairstow. The 311-game legend has averaged 8.3 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game over his storied career and had been training with the side on and off preceding the announcement. He will look to add another chapter to his book in the league. Next to him is Sam Froling, who has been reliable on the boards and on the scoreboard as he leads the team in rebounds (7.2) and ranks fourth (10.6) in points.

Illawarra also took the bold move of releasing young prospect Deng Adel from the roster due to a combination of his numerous injuries this season and shaky performances. Given that the forward managed meek averages of 5.9 points, 3.6 rebounds and two assists over the course of 23 games, Adel had been visibly frustrated leading up to the announcement that he would be leaving the coveted Hawks franchise.

Again, next up for Illawarra will be the Adelaide 36ers in Adelaide as both sides have a lot of writing on their meeting tonight. Either the Sixers will manage to keep a faint heartbeat on their late season charge, or Illawarra will take a huge first step to holding onto their current fourth seed. Their future is well and truly in their hands.

Picture credit: Anna Warr

Basketball returns to Auckland, Breakers conquer Kings in NZ return

AUCKLAND hosted its first match of the NBL21 season last night and the home fans were spectators to a treat, watching the New Zealand Breakers defeat the top-four seeking Sydney Kings last night, 89-81, instilling confidence in the Kiwi side as they start their tour of Aotearoa on the right foot.

After a slight scare giving up the first two buckets in front of their eager fans, the Breakers bounced back quickly to take the lead just a couple of minutes into the contest. New Zealand traded buckets with Sydney throughout the opening period and thanks to eight first quarter points from Levi Randolph, both sides were tied at 26 points apiece at the first break.

The second quarter fell the way of the Breakers, despite some solid play by the Kings’ bigs Xavier Cooks and Jarell Martin. But it was Tai Webster’s ability to knock down the triple that created some breathing room for his team. Scoring 25 points to Sydney’s 13 in the second, the Breakers could enjoy a comfortable double-digit lead at the main break.

Good momentum continued into the third for Dan Shamir’s side, outscoring the Kings 23-15 and cementing a more than substantial advantage with a quarter to go, leading 74-54. It was Finn Delany that lit up Trusts Arena throughout the second half, as he seemingly could not miss the net from long range, racking up points at will and maintaining the team’s buffer.

Things seemed relatively quiet as the Breakers looked to run out the fourth, however Sydney were not going to roll over and die – mainly because of the ladder situation they are currently in. A flurry of threes and consecutive field goals from the Kings dwindled their deficit all the way to the middle stages of the final quarter, with the Breakers’ 20-point lead minimised to just five points following a Craig Moller triple.

Both Webster and Randolph found themselves with five fouls and an early exit in the last couple of minutes, with Sydney somehow knocking on the door after being down by as much as 21 points. But late baskets from William McDowell-White and Rasmus Bach were enough to get the Breakers over the line in front of an ecstatic fan zone before a final charge could be mounted by the visitors, taking out the eight-point triumph.

With both teams shooting above 40 per cent on the night, there was little room for error. Furthermore, New Zealand’s impressive 49 per cent overall shooting was significantly higher than Sydney’s 43 per cent, and had the Breakers shot slightly worse, perhaps the Kings might have completed their comeback.

A major talking point last night was the sizeable discrepancy in three-point shooting. Led by Delany, the Breakers capitalised on 14 three-point attempts (51 per cent), whereas the Kings were good for only six of theirs (23 per cent). New Zealand also showed off their ball movement with eight more assists than their opponents (19-11).

It was ill-fated that the Purple and Gold could not make a serious impact in many of the major scoring statistics, even though Sydney were superior in several other areas such as turnovers (13-14), points in the paint (48-26), points from turnovers (13-9) and points off the bench (22-21).

Playing 38 minutes last night, Delany finished with 28 big points and 12 rebounds, knocking down four triples and hitting all six of his free throw attempts. Randolph and McDowell-White were the next highest contributors for the winning outfit with 13 points and nine rebounds, and 12 points and seven assists respectively for the two recent signings. Meanwhile, Tai and Corey Webster finished with 11 points apiece.

Casper Ware was deadly from the field going 8-19 from the floor, encapsulating a solid performance with 20 points, four rebounds and three assists. Martin was rather absent on the boards with five rebounds while still walking away with 18 points and Cooks remained the only other double-digit scorer for Sydney with 15 points.

Both these teams will do battle once again in New Zealand tomorrow night when the stage moves to New Plymouth at TSB Stadium, with New Zealand trying to give the residents of Taranaki more to cheer about. On the other hand, the Kings are at risking of losing serious ground in the standings with another loss as they pursue the Illawarra Hawks who are sitting half a game ahead at this stage.

Picture credit: Fiona Goodall/Getty Images

Illawarra break New Zealand hearts with narrow two-point win

THE Hawks just snuck over the line against a gallant New Zealand Breakers outfit to snare a two-point win 73-71. New Zealand pulled out all the stops in the final quarter, outscoring their opponents and giving them a real run for their money. But it was too little, too late as Illawarra escaped with a much-needed win in terms of ladder positioning.

Playing their final game in Australia after almost six months away from home, New Zealand came to play in the final stanza after being well held in the first three terms. Once again without Levi Randolph and Tom Abercrombie the Breakers had to resort to their other stars to pave the way and throw a spanner in the works for Illawarra which is exactly what they did.

It was a fast start for both sides as both Tyler Harvey and Finn Delany flexed their muscles with the three-ball. Delany landed the first blow and his hot hand continued throughout the remainder of the quarter as he poured on 13 points to give his side the upper hand heading into the quarter time break. With momentum in their favour the Breakers picked up where they left off, this time off the back of Tai Webster. He helped stretch the lead to seven points in the opening minutes of the second term before a flick switched for the home side. Emmett Naar came to life for the Hawks and subsequently brought Harvey and Justin Simon into the play as they rallied to pile on six points straight to bookend the quarter. It was a much improved quarter of basketball from Illawarra as they added 18 points to their tally while keeping the Breakers to a mere eight, holding a seven-point lead at the main break.

The third quarter was much more even as the two sides went back and forth. In fact the lead got out to as much as 15 points midway through the quarter thanks to Justinian Jessup for the Hawks. But once again, the Breakers proved that they can never be discounted as they fought their way back into the contest as Rasmus Bach nailed back to back triples and Corey Webster inflicted some scoreboard pain. Dwindling the deficit to eight points the Breakers came out with a real pep in their step in the final quarter to push Illawarra every step of the way.

The wheels really started to turn as William McDowell-White drained five points before the combination of Delany and Bach asserted themselves on the contest. In a blink of the eye the Breakers had the lead and were in pole position to steal the win. Sam Froling could sense Illawarra were losing their grip on the game and came up big with a handy jump shot and rebound to gift the lead back to the Hawks. But once again the momentum shifted as Rob Loe and Tai Webster made their presence felt on the scoreboard to snatch the lead. With the clock ticking down it was Simon that stole the show quite literally as he read the crossover and ripped the ball out of Tai Webster’s hands to gift his side a hard-earned win.

Harvey was the most prominent shooter out on court for the Hawks walking away with 24 points at 40 per cent from the field. Jessup lent a hand on the scoreboard with his 12 points as Froling got busy in all facets of the game as shown through his 12 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks. Simon was the outright match winner but aside from his timely steal produced 11 points and 11 rebounds, eight of which were defensive. Delany was a key cog for the Breakers recording yet another double-double credit to his 20 points and 11 rebounds. McDowell-White was influential with his 14 points and just fell short of a double-double racking up seven rebounds and nine assists. Bach proved to be a force to be reckoned with off the bench draining, 13 points and four rebounds while in his 29 minutes on court, Loe was strong sinking eight points and seven rebounds.

Photo credit: Mark Kolbe/Getty images

Sykes leads Phoenix to victory over the gallant Breakers

SOUTH East Melbourne Phoenix stood up when it counted keeping New Zealand Breakers at bay to secure a much needed win (91-82). The even spread of players across the board for the Phoenix was what gifted them the winning edge despite the Breakers boasting the highest scorer on the court in Finn Delany.

It was an even start to the contest with neither side able to generate a wealth of momentum and feeling each other out. The Breakers were eager to make a name for themselves and have some type of influence on the finals given they will be unable to make it, while the Phoenix were fighting to solidify their spot inside the top four.

New Zealand import Izayah Mauriohooho Le’Afa opened the account for the Phoenix as he set things in motion for the home side. The Breakers were quick to answer off the hands of Colton Iverson as the two sides engaged in a blow-for-blow style of play. the Phoenix crept out to a handy seven point lead in the early stages of the quarter before the Breakers reeled them in. It turned into somewhat of a stalemate with neither side able to find the basket going scoreless for over two minutes before finally Kyle Adnam backed himself from range to sink a handy triple. South East Melbourne maintained the six-point buffer for most of the term but a fast finishing William McDowell-White had other plans as he levelled the scores at quarter time to 19 points apiece.

Holding most of the momentum in the opening quarter of play, the Phoenix once again reigned supreme in the second to outscore their opponents 28-23. Big plays from a couple of their key cogs kept them afloat despite the hot hand of Finn Delany who simply could not be denied. The Breakers star was in just about everything and had a whopping 17 points to his name before half-time with Tai Webster also inserting himself in the thick of things to round out the quarter with a timely layup.

It was a low scoring third term from both sides as they were unable to capitalise on their opportunities as the ball swung up and down the court. However it still favoured the fourth placed Phoenix as they extended their lead to eight points thanks to the likes of Ben Moore who really came to life in that term.

But with it all to play for in the final quarter, the Breakers left no stone unturned and threw everything they had at the Phoenix. The clock steadily ticked down and it seemed as if the Phoenix had it in the bag but some magic from Rob Loe who hit a timely triple and the quick hands of Delany saw the visitors get back within one. It was heart in your mouth stuff with only three minutes left to play and the Breakers on the verge of doing the unthinkable after being down for majority of the match. With the intensity rising and the game on the line it was the Phoenix that wrestled back control as Reuben Te Rangi found himself in the right spot at the right time and with the right attributes. His strong offensive rebound and smarts to dish off to Keifer Sykes from down town was exactly what the doctor ordered as South East Melbourne pushed back out to a six-point lead. the intensity did not falter in the dying minute as Loe did his best to keep his side in touch but Mitch Creek proved his strength equalling whatever Loe did. In the end the Phoenix were simply too strong as they ran home narrow winners in a thrilling battle.

Sykes led the way for the Phoenix with 21 points, and two rebounds as Adnam was hot on his heels producing 14 points and five assists. Yannick Wetzell was a quiet achiever out on court for the Phoenix sinking 12 points at an impressive 83 per cent from the field. Both Mauriohooho Le-Afa and Creek nailed 10 points apiece with the latter also managing five rebounds and four assists. Delany had a game to remember with his game-high 32 points at 65 per cent from the field. Loe was also impressive in the loss managing 19 points and seven rebounds as McDowell-White was the sole other player to reach double digits thanks to his 14 points, three rebounds and five assists.

Photo credit: AAP