Basketball: Halloween horror for champs

By Kris Shannon

Breakers' forward Mika Vukona looks to shoot around Adelaide's BJ Anthony. Picture / Getty Images
Breakers' forward Mika Vukona looks to shoot around Adelaide's BJ Anthony. Picture / Getty Images

It may sound like pandering after their record dropped to 1-4 but this was one hell of a defeat for the Breakers.

The defending champions' horror start to the season continued on Halloween night, falling to the Adelaide 36ers for the first time in 16 games.

But the Breakers will take - and indeed deserve- a significant amount of credit for the way they turned things around at the North Shore Events Centre.

Twenty-two points behind in the third quarter after an awful first half was compounded by Mika Vukona's ejection and Tom Abercrombie's foul trouble, the home side roared back to snatch a fourth-quarter lead.

But they were denied a fairy-tale comeback by a gutsy 36ers side who rode the wave and, somehow, came out unscathed.

The result seemed like a done deal after Vukona was sent packing, caught in a confrontation with former Breaker BJ Anthony and, in what seemed like a monumental overreaction, tossed from the game.

But 19-year-old Reuben Te Rangi put the Breakers on his back and scored a career-high 22 points - 14 of which were in the third - and Kerron Johnson grabbed 17 to almost pull off the unthinkable.

Gary Wilkinson's return was almost an after-thought, starting on the bench as Adelaide jumped to a 12-2 lead by the time the home side called their first time out to stem the bleeding.

The opening was marred by missed shots, poor handling and miscommunication and, despite Wilkinson checking in, things soon got worse.

Adelaide led by as many as 16 in the period and, despite finishing with a flourish as Abercrombie pulled his side within 10 by converting Kerron Johnson's lob pass, 30 points were too many to cede.

The second started with Adelaide coach Joey Wright whistled for a technical foul - a sign of what was to follow - but that did little to change the course as the visitors' lead remained in double digits.

And the likelihood of the Breakers bridging that gap took a hit towards the end of the period in an incident sparked by a hard foul from Vukona.

Anthony took exception and was the chief aggressor but Vukona was equally volatile.

The referees conferred twice and, given the option of tossing both or granting a reprieve, they opted for a pair of ejections.

With Vukona gone and Wilkinson having already accrued three fouls, the onus was on Alex Pledger to carry the load for the Breakers' bigs as they began the third down by 14.

Instead, the foul trouble continued as Abercrombie picked up his fourth moments after the game resumed, while a rapid 8-0 run from Adelaide saw the lead hit a game-high 22 points.

The Breakers refused to buckle and, courtesy of three triples from Te Rangi, went on an 11-2 tear of their own to get back into the game. Te Rangi stayed hot and so did the team, drawing within five heading into the final period.

The momentum was well and truly with the home side and it remained heading into the fourth as the Breakers finally seized their first lead thanks to - who else - Te Rangi.

Adelaide held their nerve and held the lead, with the Breakers unable to get away a decent attempt on the buzzer.

Breakers 93
36ers 96
HT: 37-51

- APNZ

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