Breakers 72 Hawks 71
They wore their original singlets and played like the original Breakers at times last night, but the defending champions eventually burst into life against Wollongong to just win their sixth straight game.
To mark heritage round in the Australian NBL, the Breakers honoured their inaugural side at the North Shore Events Centre and, for a half, the current players threatened to take too seriously the homage to the past.
A lot of the Breakers' history from a decade ago isn't as appealing to the eye as the blue and gold singlets they wore - and neither was the basketball for the first 20 minutes.
But they recovered from scoring just 30 points in a disjointed opening half to storm to a fourth-quarter lead and survive a nervy finish to win by one.
It should have been easier for the two-time champions. The Hawks came into the contest with four straight losses and two of their best players - back-court pair Rhys Martin and Lance Hurdle - out for the season with injuries.
But Gordie McLeod's side have forged a habit in recent seasons of troubling the ANBL front-runners. The Wollongong defences usually provide problems for the Breakers, with the New Zealanders' win across the Tasman two weeks ago their sixth in 13 games against the Hawks.
As he did a week ago in Townsville, Tom Abercrombie found the keys to eventually unlock the defence and his 15 points led the home side and continued his renaissance.
The Breakers had a habit of putting themselves in holes before digging their way out on their four-game summer sweep across the Tasman, and it was a habit they appeared to bring back to the North Shore.
In a scrappy, defensive first half, the offence took time to click but, fortunately for them, the depleted Wollongong had similar struggles.
The teams came into the clash ranked in the top three in defence and that showed - though some disorderly offence was another contributor.
Wollongong led by five in the first quarter before the Breakers tied it at 14 by the first break but, while the Hawks began to take flight in the second, the home side still seemed weary from the road trip.
With the Breakers shooting just 32 per cent from the floor, Wollongong led 37-30 at the half before scoring the first five points after the break to increase their advantage to a game-high 12. The Breakers forced their way back into the contest with a 10-0 run which saw the scores locked at 53 heading into the final quarter.
The Breakers appeared buoyed and the sold-out crowd was responding, especially when Cedric Jackson completed a trademark lob pass to Abercrombie to boost the Breakers' lead to six.
But Wollongong continued to show just why they are the Breakers' bogey team, staying right on their tails.
Fortunately for the Breakers, Wollongong guard Adris Deleon - who led all scorers with 34 - could convert only one of two free throws and the Breakers hung on.
Breakers: 72 (Abercrombie 15, Pledger 12, Jackson 10)
Wollongong: 71 (Deleon 34, Forman 12, Macmillan 10)
- APNZBy Kris Shannon Email Kris