Basketball: Clutch fourth key for Breakers

By Kris Shannon

Reuben Te Rangi shoots over Jacob Holmes as part of an energetic display during the Breakers' clash with Townsville tonight. Photo / Getty
Reuben Te Rangi shoots over Jacob Holmes as part of an energetic display during the Breakers' clash with Townsville tonight. Photo / Getty

Breakers 81
Crocs 74

Tonight provided a chance for the Breakers to ameliorate a pair of areas that have proved their undoing so far this season.

And fortunately for the three-time defending champions, they did just that to beat the Townsville Crocs 81-74 and earn their third victory of the season.

The win at the North Shore Events Centre was built on a staunch rearguard to began the game and an equally resolute attitude down the stretch after their lead was whittled away.

Defence and poor fourth quarters were two key factors in the Breakers' (3-6) abject start to the season, and they needed to improve both facets as much for their mentality as their record.

So it was a boon to hold the Crocs (2-5) to 74 points after coming into the contest last placed in the league in conceding 90 points per game. And it was just as imperative for the home side to put to rest any residual nerves by closing out a Crocs side constantly snapping at their heals.

"There's definitely some relief,'' said coach Dean Vickerman. "The group talked about, if we got another close game like that, we'd make some changes to what has happened.

"We made some shots down the stretch, we made our free throws, we stayed aggressive and we didn't turn the ball over in the last few possessions, which was something we needed to improve on.''

There was also a big basket from Tom Abercrombie as Townsville threatened to grab their first lead of the night. The swingman appears back to his best and he led all scorers with 24, making five-of-eight from deep as the Breakers shot the three ball well all night.

Daryl Corletto was a big part of that, scoring 14 points, while Gary Wilkinson added 12 and Mika Vukona chimed in with a dozen rebounds.

Vukona's physicality helped as the Breakers' maligned defence enjoyed its finest start so far this season, causing disruption throughout the first quarter and limiting the Crocs to 14 points.

Townsville were shooting 1-7 from the floor and had committed four turnovers, allowing the hosts to create some early separation and take an eight-point lead into the second.

Of equal importance to the Breakers' fast start was keeping Brian Conklin and Josh Pace quiet, with the import pair who had scorched the Kiwi club in two previous meetings limited to five points between them in the first. Despite experiencing a limited contribution from the Americans, the Crocs came into the contest as the half wore on and their shooting started to heat up.

Thankfully for the Breakers, Abercrombie remained hot, getting to the line (7-8 FT) and leading all scorers with 15 as his side went to the major break up by seven.

Halftime did little to curb Abercrombie's form, with the swingman opening the third with back-to-back threes, but the Crocs remained in touch. They pulled within seven heading into the final period, providing the Breakers the chance to exorcise the fourth-quarter woes they have faced for much of the season.

But they began poorly in that quest, with the lead down to three, the shots no longer falling and the NSEC crowd audibly deflated. The gap was soon one and the Breakers' worst fears appeared to be repeating, before Abercrombie appropriately iced the game with another triple.

Breakers 81 (Abercrombie 24, Corletto 16, Wilkinson 12)
Crocs 74 (Blanchfield 14, Pace 12, Conklin 12)
HT: 43-36

- APNZ

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