Basketball: Breakers keep alive playoff hopes

By Kris Shannon

36ers 87 Breakers 88
Mika Vukona looks to pass around Adelaide's Jerome Randle. Photo / Getty
Mika Vukona looks to pass around Adelaide's Jerome Randle. Photo / Getty

Trailing by double digits with eight minutes remaining against the league-leading Adelaide 36ers, the Breakers tonight mounted an incredible resurgence to keep alive their slim playoff hopes.

Paul Henare's first year as coach looked destined to conclude without a place in the post-season before his side produced an unlikely fourth-quarter comeback to set up a dramatic final week of an eventful Australian NBL season.

The Breakers will need to beat Melbourne United at the North Shore Events Centre on Friday night, and they will probably still require other results to fall in their favour, but they have received a big infusion of belief tonight.

After dropping back-to-back games to slide outside of the top four, it always appeared a tough ask for the Breakers to climb out of the hole in which they found themselves. Adelaide have undeniably been the best team this season and had won eight straight games on their home court.

And to increase the degree of difficulty, the Breakers initially chose to keep digging, squandering a strong first half and seeming as if they were about to surrender in spectacular fashion for the second week running.

But with his side trailing by 11 points heading into the fourth quarter, Kirk Penney scored 10 of his game-high 21 in the final period to lift the Breakers to an improbable victory.

It was especially improbable considering the collapse that had proceeded the comeback.

Adelaide had already clinched top spot and played like they were short of motivation at times in the first half, lacking defensive energy and allowing the Breakers to run amok on the offensive glass. The home side trailed by six at the end of the first quarter and, once coach Joey Wright was ejected for arguing, it looked like the 36ers might start preparing for the playoffs.

After a couple of quiet games, Kevin Dillard appeared back near his prodigious best, scoring 14 in the first half and draining a three that gave the Breakers a game-high 13-point lead with two-and-a-half minutes to play in the half.

That's when it all began to go wrong, though. The Breakers managed only one field goal in the next six minutes on the court, watching in horror as Adelaide embarked on a 24-6 run to turn the game on its head.

The home side suddenly built a double-digit lead and the Breakers would have been forgiven for dropping their heads, having seemingly blown their chance. But after five straight points from Rob Loe sparked an 8-0 run to give his side some hope in the fourth quarter, a three from Penney eventually trimmed the deficit to one.

Dillard then showed his composure to drain three key free throws and make it a tie game with a minute to play, before Loe's floater gave the Breakers a lead they grimly hung onto.

36ers 87 (D. Johnson 19, J. Randle 16, M. Hodgson 14)
Breakers 88 (K. Penney 21, K. Dillard 20, R. Loe 15)
Halftime: 45-49

- NZ Herald

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