Basketball: Breakers win for Bruton

By Kris Shannon

Gary Wilkinson enjoyed another fine night against his favourite opponent. Photo / Getty
Gary Wilkinson enjoyed another fine night against his favourite opponent. Photo / Getty

Breakers 106
Kings 78

The CJ Bruton farewell tour began with a bang thanks to another player who may be in the final days of his Breakers career.

Bruton was the one soaking up the adulation in his final game at the North Shore Events Centre - the standing ovations, the blown kisses, the commemorative t-shirts - but it was Gary Wilkinson who really brought the house down.

Wilkinson's 30 points helped the Breakers to a face-saving 106-78 win over the Sydney Kings tonight, a victory that ensured the defending champions would avoid the wooden spoon.

After last week bowing out of playoff contention once and for all, the cellar would have been an ignominious, if not entirely undeserved, place for the Breakers (11-16) to find themselves come the end of the campaign.

Instead, their season will wrap against Cairns at Vector Arena next week, an occasion that will mark Bruton's last appearance for the club he turned from stragglers into serial winners.

"That's one of the things that I'll always remember,'' said coach Dean Vickerman. "The confidence he's brought to everyone else in New Zealand basketball.

"There's always a belief, there's always a positivity - just the swagger that he's brought to the players in this country.''

Bruton might not be alone in saying goodbye. The status of both imports is under question, even if Wilkinson played like a man who should unquestionably be brought back.

Seeing Sydney at the opposite end aided his cause - having scored 33, 31 and 17 against the Kings this season - but Wilkinson was unable to explain his predilection for playing the Kings.

"Sometimes I find a good rhythm and for some reason I can stay in it the whole game,'' he said. "It's just been like that when we've played them every time.''

In addition to the American's offence, Bruton had 14 and Tom Abercrombie chipped in with 14, helping the Breakers overcome the twin efforts of Sam Young (24) and AJ Ogilvy (25).

That looked unlikely early when the Breakers again started slowly, scoring only six points in the opening six minutes. They eventually ended the period level before, as is his wont when playing the Kings, Wilkinson exploded to break the deadlock.

His one-man show midway through the quarter produced nine straight points and his total of 18 at the half saw the Breakers up by two possessions.

Bruton was bound to find form at some point and that hot streak arrived to begin the third, with nine consecutive points helping his side establish a double-digit advantage heading to the fourth.

While that seemed healthy enough, last week's capitulation proved no lead was too large. On this occasion, however, the Breakers never threatened to throw away the game.

Breakers 106 (Wilkinson 30, Bruton 14, Abercrombie 14)
Kings 78 (Ogilvy 25, Young 24, Madgen 13)
HT: 39-35


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