Basketball: Breakers bounce back with win

By Kris Shannon

Gary Wilkinson scored 31 points to lead the Breakers to victory over the Sydney Kings. Photo / Getty
Gary Wilkinson scored 31 points to lead the Breakers to victory over the Sydney Kings. Photo / Getty

Kings 83
Breakers 99

If the second half of the season is to bring a resurgence from the Breakers, today's 99-83 victory over Sydney was a solid start.

A fortnight away from the court appeared to cure what ailed the defending champions, with a big performance from Gary Wilkinson helping to overturn a fourth-quarter deficit and clinch a crucial victory.

This was the type of game the Breakers could have squandered earlier in the campaign, with close losses far more common than hard-fought wins as they slumped to last place in the Australian NBL.

But the Breakers (5-9) were much more assured against the Kings (5-7) and, with Sydney coming into the contest occupying a playoff spot, the two-game swing was essential if the Kiwi club are to climb back into contention.

With 14 games remaining in the season, the Breakers may need to flip their first-half record to have a hope. That would leave them with as many wins as losses and, if it is to happen, Wilkinson could be a key factor in the revival.

The American started in place of the injured Alex Pledger at centre and turned what looked like a setback into a potential positive. Wilkinson provides more of the offensive end than the Tall Black and proved as much with a game-high 31 points in his first start since returning to the club.

While the Breakers were crushed on the boards (46-23) without Pledger, the league's third-leading rebounder, the one-two import punch of Wilkinson and Kerron Johnson (21 points) provided ample offence to overcome the deficiency.

But the champs will have to make an immediate improvement in that area ahead of Sunday's visit Adelaide, with the 36ers the leading rebounding team in the competition.

Wilkinson, along with Vukona, was one of only two Breakers to pull down more than two boards, and the big man appeared locked in from the tip-off to grab five quick points.

The Kings took a 19-17 advantage into the second but that was quickly erased as part of a 7-0 Breakers run to open the quarter, with the screws turned defensively to prevent Sydney from scoring for almost three minutes.

That all changed when Ben Madgen exploded for 12 points to close the quarter and pull his side within one at the halftime break. Madgen's total output of 15 for the half was matched by Wilkinson, who highlighted his haul with a pair of three-point plays following ferocious dunks.

The game remained even for much of the third, quite incredibly considering how badly the Breakers were being handled on the boards. The Kings had almost tripled the Breakers' rebounding total midway through the quarter and were especially dominant on the offensive glass in Pledger's absence.

But such supremacy wasn't reflected on the scoreboard, leaving Sydney to be content with a two-point lead heading into the final period. The Kings soon increased that buffer before a 12-1 run from the Breakers saw a four-point deficit quickly become a seven-point lead.

With five minutes on the clock, the Breakers were in the box seat, but their woes down the stretch from the first half of the season weighed heavily over proceedings. Four quick points from Daryl Corletto helped ease those concerns, though, allowing the Breakers to hang on for a much-needed win.

Kings 83 (Madgen 26, Young 21, Garlepp 14)
Breakers 99 (Wilkinson 31, Johnson 21, Abercrombie 13)
HT: 42-43

- APNZ

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