Basketball: Horror fourth dooms Breakers

By Kris Shannon

Mika Vukona began the Breakers' clash with Melbourne in beast mode, almost managing a first-half double-double. Photo / Getty
Mika Vukona began the Breakers' clash with Melbourne in beast mode, almost managing a first-half double-double. Photo / Getty

Breakers 84
Tigers 97

What a depressingly appropriate way for the Breakers to bow out of the finals race once and for all.

After struggling down the stretch all season, the defending champions inflicted the fatal blow on themselves during tonight's 97-84 loss to Melbourne at Vector Arena.

Needing to finish with three home victories to strengthen their slim hopes of reaching the playoffs, the defending champions spectacularly tumbled to a Tigers side who could hardly believe their luck.

The Breakers were in front by 14 heading into the fourth quarter and it seemed as if attention could be safely switched to another must-win encounter with Sydney next week.

But a monumental collapse saw Melbourne rack up a 44-17 advantage in the final quarter to steal the game and boost their own playoff hopes.

"When things got hard, we crumbled,'' said coach Dean Vickerman. "We didn't turn up when things got hard in the fourth quarter.''

It was a scarcely believable passage of play from the Breakers - a routine basketball run that just didn't stop - but it was emblematic of their struggles this season.

The Breakers have repeatedly found themselves on the wrong end of fourth-quarter comebacks and continually emerged worse for wear from tight games. The final margin tonight wasn't all that close but the almost surreal turn of events in the fourth did feel fitting.

After lifting the trophy for the last three seasons, the champs (10-16) now face a rather less glamorous goal for the conclusion their campaign - avoiding the wooden spoon.

"Everyone's in a little bit of disbelief,'' Vickerman said. "We talked about it as our grand final. We said this was a game where the championship could disappear and go to another country, and that's the disappointing thing''

The disappointment looked on the cards early, when the Breakers missed their first 10 shots in one of their ugliest patches this season. But Melbourne weren't making many of their own and the first four minutes produced just four points.

Gary Wilkinson eventually broke the Breakers' duck to help his side head the opening break down by two, before an 8-0 run in the second saw them in front. Despite being almost doubled up in the rebound count, the home side's lead stood at five heading into a third quarter where a resolute defence was matched with efficiency at the other end.

The Breakers' advantage was in double digits heading to the fourth but that seemingly safe lead was quickly erased with as the Tigers enjoyed a 15-2 start, a dramatic swing the champs just couldn't counter.

Their shots stopped falling and Melbourne's every move was the right one, leaving the Breakers looking ahead to a playoffs spent on the sideline.

Breakers 84 (Webster 17, Johnson 12, Abercrombie 12)
Tigers 97 (Goulding 27, Morrison 19, Worthington 16)
HT: 46-41

- APNZ

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf01 at 22 Oct 2014 17:10:58 Processing Time: 57ms