Basketball: Title within grasp as Breakers bite Crocs

By Steve Deane

Breakers' star Kirk Penney is airborne against the Townsville Crocs during last night's thriller at North Shore Events Centre. Photo / Natalie Slade
Breakers' star Kirk Penney is airborne against the Townsville Crocs during last night's thriller at North Shore Events Centre. Photo / Natalie Slade

The Breakers have one hand on the ANBL minor premiership after surviving a nail-biting finish to pip the second-placed Townsville Crocodiles by a point on the North Shore last night.

In a game in which they scored their third-lowest total, it was the much-maligned Breakers' defence that got them home.

After a slow start, a withering second quarter burst kicked the Breakers 18 points clear. But any thoughts of a comfortable victory disappeared as the Crocs closed the quarter with a 10-0 run to signal they weren't going to roll over.

The Breakers managed just two field goals and 10 points in a tense final quarter, handing the Crocs the chance to claim the match on the buzzer. Coming out of a timeout with 22 seconds on the clock the Crocs engineered a shot for Peter Crawford that bounced off the rim straight to Luke Schenscher. The giant centre had time to convert but his shot was also astray, handing the Breakers their 19th victory of the season.

The result means they will now claim the minor premiership and with it top seeding for the finals if they manage one more win from their remaining four games - or if Townsville drop another.

The Breakers made a nervous start, committing unforced turnovers and missing open shots on the way to a 12-point first quarter. Their poor offence was at least balanced by a vastly improved defensive effort that held the Crocs to just 14-points.

After a dour opening quarter the Breakers found their offensive rhythm, blasting the Crocs with a 22-4 run to open the second period that seemed to have blown the game open. The Crocs looked anything but a side that had won four straight games to give themselves an outside shot of overhauling the Breakers on the ladder. But when the impressive Mika Vukona departed after hurting himself slipping on the treacherous court surface the momentum swung dramatically in favour of the visitors.

Vukona's return, albeit with a slight limp, coincided with a strong start to the second half by the Breakers. Kirk Penney, who ended with a game-high 20 points, drove to the basket three times to compile six quick points, while Vukona also added four from inside the paint. The Breakers weren't having it all their own way, though, with Russell Hinder producing a strong block on Gary Wilkinson to force another momentum swing.

The Crocs closed strongly, cutting a lead that had hovered at a comfortable 12 for much of the quarter to just eight heading into the final quarter.

A 6-0 run to start the quarter by the Crocs cut the deficit to just two. Penney missed two three-point attempts but when the Crocs twice failed to connect with shots that would have tied the game, he didn't miss with a third.

Kevin Braswell looked to have finished the job when he nailed a three with 1.58s remaining to give his a side a six-point lead.

But three turnovers in the space of four positions handed the Crocs the chance they were looking for. Luckily for the Breakers they couldn't take it.

Breakers 66
(Kirk Penney 20, Gary Wilkinson 12, CJ Bruton 11)

Townsville Crocodiles 65
(Luke Schenscher 16, Will Blalock 15).

Halftime: 38-30.

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf04 at 23 Oct 2014 11:43:07 Processing Time: 596ms