Basketball: Pledger leads the way as Breakers douse Blaze

By Steve Deane

Mika Vukona of the Breakers takes a rebound during the match against the Gold Coast Blaze. Photo / Getty Images
Mika Vukona of the Breakers takes a rebound during the match against the Gold Coast Blaze. Photo / Getty Images

Breakers 106
Gold Coast 85

A big night from big man Alex Pledger and a dominant rebounding display helped the Breakers douse the hot-shooting Blaze on the North Shore last night.

Pledger came from the bench to notch a career-high 18-points in a tempestuous encounter that saw Leon Henry and Blaze forward Anthony Petrie ejected following a third-quarter scuffle. The Blaze lit up the scoreboard for 31 points in the first quarter but the Breakers were in fine scoring fettle themselves, making the most of a 47-21 rebound count to run away with the match in the final three quarters.

Daryl Corletto again impressed with 18 points, including 4/8 three-pointers, while Cedric Jackson took the honours in his battle against fellow American point guard Adris Deleon.

Mika Vukona finished with a 21-point, 10-rebound double-double, taking him past the 1000-point, 1000-rebound mark for the club.

The third-straight win padded the 8-3 Breakers' lead atop the NBL ladder ahead of Sunday's trip to Adelaide.

Vukona utterly dominated the opening exchanges, pulling down five offensive rebounds and chipping in six points against his former club inside the first two minutes. He ended the quarter with 10 points but their shaky first-quarter defence meant the Breakers trailed at the first break.

The Breakers' transition defence was once again exposed and they trailed by as many as 11 before surging back with a five-point play from a Gary Wilkinson three and two Vukona free throws from an off-the-ball foul.

The Blaze still led by six at the opening break and that immediately became nine as the dead-eyed James Harvey drained his third three of the night on the resumption. Harvey wasn't the only Blaze shooter on fire, with the visitors combining to drain seven of their first eight three-point attempts.

The Breakers weren't about to lie down, however, with Pledger coming from the bench to add eight rapid-fire points either side of a brace of Corletto threes, the second of which capped a 12-3 run that put the Breakers in front.

Mid-way through the third quarter with the Breakers 16 points clear, Henry took exception when Petrie flattened Jackson on the dribble and an all-in shoving contest ensued. Jackson was slapped with a technical foul for throwing the ball at Petrie, and both Petrie and Henry were disqualified from the contest.

The temperature increase did more for the Blaze, with the visitors embarking on a 10-2 run to cut the deficit in half. But Pledger reignited the Breakers' offence and Abercrombie nailed a three to close the quarter with the Breakers' lead back in double digits - a margin they would not relinquish.

- NZ Herald

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