Basketball: Breakers back to winning ways

By Kris Shannon

Alex Pledger was a dominant force in the paint for the Breakers in their game against the Hawks in Wollongong today. Photo / Getty
Alex Pledger was a dominant force in the paint for the Breakers in their game against the Hawks in Wollongong today. Photo / Getty

Hawks 89
Breakers 97

The Breakers will be breathing a big sigh of relief after snapping their losing streak and seeing off the pesky Hawks in Wollongong today.

After a four-game losing streak - their first since January 2010 - the defending champions would have taken any manner of victory at the Sandpit, but their 97-89 win was impressive regardless of the circumstances.

They enjoyed key contributions from their starters, all of whom made double figures, to finally shake an opposition undoubtedly buoyed by the Breakers' recent struggles.

Wollongong led by five midway through the final quarter, before the Breakers turned the screws defensively and, crucially, avoided the foul problems that have plagued them so far this season.

Since beating the Hawks on opening night, the Breakers slumped from one setback to the next and, although they wouldn't have been panicking, there will certainly be satisfaction in climbing off the bottom rung of the ladder.

For that, they had a varied cast of characters to thank. Alex Pledger began the game in dominating fashion in the paint, and he led the Breakers with 19 point and seven rebounds.

A determined Mika Vukona - or Mike if you asked the local commentators - was every bit as influential, earning with a double-double of 18 points and 11 boards. Daryl Corletto shot the ball well and Kerron Johnson had a timely impact in the fourth quarter as the Breakers finally climbed clear of the home side.

Having struggled on the offensive glass through the first few weeks of the season, the Breakers began well courtesy of Pledger and Vukona. Both men grabbed three offensive rebounds in the first quarter as part of the visitors' total of eight, matching their season average in just 10 minutes.

Pledger eventually ended the period with nine points and helped his side to a 26-21 lead, but that edge evaporated in the second after an offensive outburst from Rotnei Clarke, who drained a trio of threes to help the home side in front.

The American import, third in the league in scoring, went to the major break with 20 but the Breakers continued to enjoy an edge on the boards and took a four-point advantage into the second half.

The champs could have been further ahead were Kerron Johnson's radar a little more accurate, with the point guard missing his first eight shots before being flattened by a screen and helped off the court.

His absence saw Corey Webster and CJ Bruton split time at the point, allowing Corletto to remain in the game at shooting guard for much of the quarter. And the Australian made the most of his time on the floor, nailing a couple of triples to take 15 points into the final quarter as the Breakers led by one.

Johnson made his way back into the game early in the fourth and, with the Hawks having snuck in front by three, his timing was impeccable. The 23-year-old's shooting game heated up, and a pivotal five-point burst as part of a 7-0 run gave the Breakers the breathing room they needed to get back to winning ways.

Hawks 89 (Clarke 36, Tiggs 18, Coenraad 12)
Breakers 97 (Pledger 19, Vukona 18, Corletto 15)
HT: 45-49

- APNZ

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