By Murray McKInnon
The drought is over, the Breakers finally got a win on the board with a 77-74 home victory over the Townsville Crocodiles at the Vector Arena on Friday night.
But they had to battle it out over the final two and a half minutes after Corey Webster with a three pointer had given them an 11 point buffer going into the final stanza.
Clint Steindl sparked a revival for the Crocodiles with six straight points and Nicholas Kay gave them further hope with a three and two free throws. Mika Vukona sitting on four fouls, determined not let it slip away, made two quick layups and Tom Abercrombie came in a with a free throw and a two point shot to clinch it for the Breakers in front of a crowd of 5562.
Scores were locked at 22 a piece after the first quarter where Abercrombie, from the free throw line, in the opening seconds of the game gained the two points he needed to become the Breakers all-time leading scorer surpassing Kirk Penney’s 2,517 points. Abercrombie playing in his 215th game for the Breakers top scored with 22. Charles Jackson with 15 points and 15 rebounds, Cedric Jackson on 13 and Corey Webster 12 were the other top contributors to the win.
The Breakers led 38-36 at the half and at the end of the three-quarter the teams were level again at 52-52.
It was a relieved and smiling Dean Vickerman who fronted the media after the game.
“Any win right now is a good win for us, we built a solid lead and everything that possibly could happen kind of happened in that last part, a number of offensive rebounds, foul a three point shooter, a push off on an inbound pass, there were a number of things that happened that didn’t help us close that thing out, but we held our nerve and we’re really happy to get the win,” said Vickerman.
“The message got through that we wanted to foul, we fouled, we did it right, we questioned the last one, there’s four and a half seconds to go, do you foul that one, but it worked out,” he added.
Vickerman said after six straight losses confidence was down a bit coming into the game.
“After some losses like we’ve had there’s just that little edge off your confidence and we showed that a little bit tonight, but to get through that one and now we keep building and we’re back to 500 and we move on to Adelaide.
“I thought we had some patches where we blew the game and got out to a good margin, that end of the third quarter wasn’t good for us where they made a little come back. I kept my time out there and wanted to see how long we could play that group that we put in at the start of the fourth quarter and they pretty much played the whole game out, Mika played the whole quarter with four fouls, I though Charles was the best of our bigs and kept him out there. Corey struggled the first half but he came through with some key shots. I thought Tommy was outstanding most of the night and Ced just drove us tonight and it was really important his attack on the rim was outstanding play and to get Charles to action that dump down the stretch,” said Vickerman.
The coach was also pleased to see Abercrombie reach a milestone of scoring for the Club.
“There’s been some amazing players play for this Club and for him to be top of the scoring list and with a long career to go it will be interesting to see how far he can take that record” he said
Vickerman left it to Cedric Jackson to comment on Charles Jackson.
“Charles really watches a lot of film that’s a great learning tool from the guys he’s been learning from and he’s always trying to find a way to be a spark and he was definitely that tonight and with his energy he’s the best communicator on court all night. We talk a lot but he drove everything tonight and he’s getting his confidence back and learning how to defend certain players, he’s just got this little thing of get your hand out of the cookie jar. Alex Pledger’s also playing great right now and as long as we can just continue to build on that and stay focussed,” said Cedric.
Going forward Vickerman said it was a nice little bit of relief but there is still more work to do.
“Go in there and play to get the win and see what happens happens, we tick this one off we’re back to 500 and we’re 12 and 12 and we’ve four to go and we know it’s two at home and two on the road and one of the things we haven’t been able to do this year so far is be a really good team on the road and if we want to make the finals we going to have to do that, it’s a great test for us right now.”
Asked if he was disappointed at losing Townsville coach Shawn Dennis said if anything he was pleased with the effort his team showed.
“I don’t think it’s disappointing when you look at you’re playing New Zealand in New Zealand who are four times champion in five years, and we’re the youngest team in the League and spend out the least amount of money in the League, to come back into it like that shows the guts and determination of this group so I’m actually extremely proud. You want to win on the scoreboard but we’re still learning how to win and against the Breakers, there’re three teams in this League, that if you don’t win the possession game, it’s very difficult to beat and that’s Adelaide, Illawarra and New Zealand and we had 17 turnovers and gave up 20 offensive boards and that’s the ball game and then you miss 12 free throws on top of that it’s actually a miracle we were within three, so from that point of view to do that and still have a chance to win the game I’m extremely proud of this group, that’s a great effort and I think people need to realise what a hell of an effort that is against New Zealand.
“They’re four times champions when they know they need to perform in general they always do and they did today, they threw everything they had at us and they only got us by three and that’s an incredible effort by our blokes and I’m extremely proud of them”, said Dennis.
He added that he was impressed with the Breakers play.
“They’re a good shooting team and they can get second chance goes at it and that gives them confidence to shoot the ball and that’s what happened in the fourth quarter, they dominated us in that area and in the last part of the quarter we started to take care of it. And that’s when we were able to edge our way back in and were able to set up a couple of good plays and there’s no secret in basketball that your defence is the thing that creates good offensive opportunities and poise within your team and we started to get that done and overall we weren’t too bad defensively we kept them under 80 points which I think is a very good effort but you just can’t give up all that possession, it just kills you in the end,” said Dennis.
“Our aim is to get to 12 wins if we can and win the rest of our home games and it means we’ve had another improvement after a tough off-season,” he added.