Breakers 86 Wildcats 82

Ten days ago the Breakers were in last place and facing an improbable equation to reach the playoffs.

But four games later, the latest being tonight's victory nervy over Perth at Vector Arena, the four-time champions are in a share of second and closing in on another playoff place.

Kirk Penney scored 25 points, the Breakers defence did barely enough to restrict the old enemy and two players who mere weeks ago joined a struggling club once more ignited their new team.

One factor in their sudden ascent is the parity inherent in this year's Australian NBL, with four straight wins easily enough for the Breakers to summit the standings. But a more significant cause has been the boost provided by Kevin Dillard and Paul Carter, transforming an injury-disrupted side into one who can challenge for the title.


"We've been able to get some consistency in terms of the roster we've put on the floor and the way we've been playing the game," said coach Paul Henare. "It's helped us win some tough games."

The two new imports were at the forefront of that tonight. Power forward Paul Carter scored 15 points and secured five rebounds, continuing to account for the absence of Tom Abercrombie, who's creeping ever closer to a return from injury.

And point guard Kevin Dillard followed two game-winning efforts in two games with another 20-point performance, also playing his part to unleash Penney and allow his back-court mate to score 18 of his 25 in the second half.

"Kevin has made all of our jobs easier," Penney said. "He has an ability to pass and he has an ability to score, and those two things really take a lot of pressure off other guys.

"And he's been fun to play with - all of us have really enjoyed it. He's been an awesome pick up and I think we're all very thankful he's got a Breakers singlet on."

That's clear in the confidence Dillard has infused in his teammates. And with two of their final three games across the Tasman, where the Kiwi club this season own a 3-8 record, the will need a good deal of self-belief in the stretch run.

But tonight was a good test of their mettle under pressure, the type games against Perth so often provide. The lead changed hands nine times in the first quarter alone before the Breakers built a handy lead that was almost erased in a frantic last few minutes.

Given it's been a recurring issue all season, it was no surprise for turnovers to almost prove the Breakers' undoing. Dillard's exuberance was at times to his team's detriment and his sixth turnover sparked a horror run of eight in the final three minutes.

But first Dillard and then rookie guard Shea Ili held their nerve from the free-throw line and the Breakers now hold their playoff fate in their own hands.

"We didn't finish the game the way we wanted to but I'm just extremely proud of the guys and happy with the result," Henare said. "That was an absolutely great result for us."

Breakers 86 (K. Penney 25, K. Dillard 20, P. Carter 15)
Wildcats 82 (B. Cotton 26, A. Brandt 14, C. Prather 13)
Halftime: 39-34