Basketball: Breakers overcome Gold Coast

By Kris Shannon

Breakers 106 Gold Coast 85

The Breakers overcame an all-in brawl and a Gold Coast side that at one stage couldn't miss to register their league-leading eighth win on the North Shore tonight.

The 106-85 victory came on the back of a dominant rebounding night and kept the 8-3 Breakers on top of the Australian NBL.

The 4-5 Blaze shot the lights out of the North Shore Events Centre in the first quarter and, once the Breakers began their now-familiar rally in the middle quarters, the game looked like it could be a straight shootout in a similar vein to last week's double-overtime win.

But the home side showed their championship form to control the game from the third quarter onward, eventually securing a comfortable 21-point victory.

The win was aided by forward Mika Vukona becoming the first Breaker in club history to register 1000 points and 1000 rebounds, finishing the game with 21 points, 11 boards and six assists. Vukona made a mockery of his hyped match-up with the Blaze's Mark Worthington (6pts, 2rbs), and said he always enjoys playing his former team.

"I just let the game come. I think the team did a great job, also, especially down the stretch," Vukona said.

"That game there I was in attack mode. They're a big team so you can't take them for granted at all."

The Breakers out-rebounded the Blaze 48-22 and pulled down a massive 20 offensive boards, something Vukona said required no special strategy.

"You just go out there and try and get the ball," he said. "There's really no explanation for it - it just happens."

The first quarter belonged strictly to Gold Coast. They simply weren't missing their shots, led by guard James Harvey who scored 12 points in the opening seven minutes. The Blaze's efficiency enabled them to go on a 11-0 run and gave them an early 27-16 lead, helped by a shooting percentage that consistently hovered in the high 60s and a perfect four-from-four from deep.

Harvey took only one shot in the second quarter, and it was no coincidence that the Blaze's red-hot shooting began to cool at this point, with the Breakers storming back to lead 58-50 at the half.

Breakers coach Andrew Lemanis said he was pleased to overcome to Blaze's impressive early shooting to take the win.

"For the most part, I thought we were pretty solid at the defensive end and, the way the game was going, I was amazed it was still a six or seven-point game."

The battle at point guard between Cedric Jackson and Adris DeLeon, who overcame a thigh injury to start, proved an fascinating one, with DeLeon seeming to bring out Jackson's competitive fire.

That was illustrated halfway through the third quarter when, with the Breakers holding a 15-point lead and threatening to run away with it, the game sparked to life.

The incendiary moment came when Jackson was tripped while hustling for a loose ball. The American guard reacted by throwing the ball at a Blaze player, which earned him a technical foul and kicked off an all-in melee, during which the Breakers' Leon Henry and Petrie for the Blaze were ejected from the game.

Blaze coach Joey Wright said Jackson swung an arm in the brawl and felt he was lucky to avoid being thrown out, too. Lemanis, didn't respond to this accusation and said he couldn't tell what happened among the crowd of six-foot-plus bodies.

"I didn't really see much of it, aside from people milling around each other," he said. "I don't know why Leon got thrown out, I don't know why Petrie got thrown out, I don't know any of it."

But the Breakers didn't appear rattled from the break and, from that point, never let their lead fall below 11, making for a relatively cruisy conclusion to a hectic night at the NSEC.

Breakers 106 (Vukona 21, Pledger 18, Abercrombie 18)

Gold Coast 85 (Harvey 19, Hudson 19, DeLeon 15)

HT: 58-50

- APNZ

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