NBL 2014/15 Round 14: Breakers given OT scare by Hawks

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A spirited effort from the Wollongong Hawks has left them just short of the ladder leading New Zealand Breakers, falling 98-91 in overtime despite leading for the entire first half.

After a free throw battle ensued in the dying seconds of regulation, Corey Webster put the Breakers up by three with 18 seconds remaining. The match was sent into an extra period though as Rhys Martin sank a three from the wing on the buzzer.

Wollongong had started the game 1-13 from beyond the arc but steadily improved over the course of the night, hitting 8 of their next 17 attempts to finish at a 30% clip.

Martin continued his hot form into overtime, scoring nine straight points for the Hawks across the two periods. New Zealand’s spread of scorers eventually wore them down though. A straight away three from Tom Abercrombie gave the Breakers the lead with two minutes to go before Cedric Jackson set him up for an alley-oop.

Corey Webster then sank a three point dagger with 21 seconds remaining, sending the home crowd into raptures. The Breakers players were more reserved in their celebrations though, knowing they had stolen a victory that seemed unlikely for most of the night.

Reuben Te Rangi was ruled out pre-game with an illness and in response to this news, Wollongong pushed the pace, starting the game with an 8-3 run. Jackson had a strong intent from the outset for the home side but the Hawks’ defence kept him and his team-mates to jump shots. New Zealand hit just 4-17 in the opening term for 12 points, trailing by 5 at the first break.

The lead was reeled in by the Breakers as they went to their bench in the second quarter, with Ekene Ibekwe immediately influencing the contest. The deficit was cut to 1 point before Gary Ervin and Jahii Carson turned on the jets.

They continually exploded to the basket, combining for 14 first half points and when they did miss, Luke Nevill was there to clean up the glass. His 8 points and 4 rebounds answered 4 and 5 from Ibekwe as Wollongong led by 6 after two quarters.

It seemed only a matter of time until New Zealand made a run and they gained their first lead straight out of the main break with a 10-0 run. However, the Hawks were again up to the task.

Tim Coenraad, Oscar Forman and Ervin all nailed triples in response before Ervin followed up with two incredible spin moves in the paint. The Breakers struggled to contain him and Carson all night and when Webster recorded his fourth foul in the final term, Carson moved into another gear.

He scored 11 points in the last quarter, giving the Hawks a 6 point advantage mid-way through the period. New Zealand willed themselves back into the contest on the back of a Webster three and with the match in the balance, both sides intentionally fouled as they strategically fought for the final shot.

Six Breakers players finished in double figures, led by Jackson (18 points, 7 rebounds, 9 assists and 6 steals). Mika Vukona had 13 points, 7 boards and 5 assists. Abercrombie added 16 points and Webster notched 15. Off the bench, Ibekwe had 10 and 9 rebounds while Tai Wesley’s 4-6 shooting for 11 points means he has hit 23 of his last 30 field goals.

Wollongong continue to give the top four sides a scare and deserve a victory but just cannot get themselves over the hump. Martin was exceptional for the visitors, hitting 8-12 for 21 points while Ervin matched him with 21 of his own. In 24 minutes, Carson collected 17 points while Coenraad (14 and 8 rebounds) had the better of Alex Pledger.

After such an enthralling encounter, fans should flock to Wollongong on Sunday where these sides meet in a re-match.

New Zealand Breakers 98 (Jackson 18, Abercrombie 16, Webster 15) Wollongong Hawks 91 (Ervin 21, Martin 21, Carson 17)

@ North Shore Events Centre