Illawarra break New Zealand hearts with narrow two-point win

THE Hawks just snuck over the line against a gallant New Zealand Breakers outfit to snare a two-point win 73-71. New Zealand pulled out all the stops in the final quarter, outscoring their opponents and giving them a real run for their money. But it was too little, too late as Illawarra escaped with a much-needed win in terms of ladder positioning.

Playing their final game in Australia after almost six months away from home, New Zealand came to play in the final stanza after being well held in the first three terms. Once again without Levi Randolph and Tom Abercrombie the Breakers had to resort to their other stars to pave the way and throw a spanner in the works for Illawarra which is exactly what they did.

It was a fast start for both sides as both Tyler Harvey and Finn Delany flexed their muscles with the three-ball. Delany landed the first blow and his hot hand continued throughout the remainder of the quarter as he poured on 13 points to give his side the upper hand heading into the quarter time break. With momentum in their favour the Breakers picked up where they left off, this time off the back of Tai Webster. He helped stretch the lead to seven points in the opening minutes of the second term before a flick switched for the home side. Emmett Naar came to life for the Hawks and subsequently brought Harvey and Justin Simon into the play as they rallied to pile on six points straight to bookend the quarter. It was a much improved quarter of basketball from Illawarra as they added 18 points to their tally while keeping the Breakers to a mere eight, holding a seven-point lead at the main break.

The third quarter was much more even as the two sides went back and forth. In fact the lead got out to as much as 15 points midway through the quarter thanks to Justinian Jessup for the Hawks. But once again, the Breakers proved that they can never be discounted as they fought their way back into the contest as Rasmus Bach nailed back to back triples and Corey Webster inflicted some scoreboard pain. Dwindling the deficit to eight points the Breakers came out with a real pep in their step in the final quarter to push Illawarra every step of the way.

The wheels really started to turn as William McDowell-White drained five points before the combination of Delany and Bach asserted themselves on the contest. In a blink of the eye the Breakers had the lead and were in pole position to steal the win. Sam Froling could sense Illawarra were losing their grip on the game and came up big with a handy jump shot and rebound to gift the lead back to the Hawks. But once again the momentum shifted as Rob Loe and Tai Webster made their presence felt on the scoreboard to snatch the lead. With the clock ticking down it was Simon that stole the show quite literally as he read the crossover and ripped the ball out of Tai Webster’s hands to gift his side a hard-earned win.

Harvey was the most prominent shooter out on court for the Hawks walking away with 24 points at 40 per cent from the field. Jessup lent a hand on the scoreboard with his 12 points as Froling got busy in all facets of the game as shown through his 12 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks. Simon was the outright match winner but aside from his timely steal produced 11 points and 11 rebounds, eight of which were defensive. Delany was a key cog for the Breakers recording yet another double-double credit to his 20 points and 11 rebounds. McDowell-White was influential with his 14 points and just fell short of a double-double racking up seven rebounds and nine assists. Bach proved to be a force to be reckoned with off the bench draining, 13 points and four rebounds while in his 29 minutes on court, Loe was strong sinking eight points and seven rebounds.

Photo credit: Mark Kolbe/Getty images

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