Wollongong Hawks have evened up their pre-season series against the reigning Australian NBL champion NZ Breakers, beating the Auckland-based side 64-61 in Dunedin tonight.
The visiting Aussie club led for most of the encounter and by as many as 12 points in the second quarter, but had to hold off a determined comeback from the titleholders down the stretch.
Breakers centre Alex Pledger led all scorers with 18 points, while power forward Mika Vukona grabbed 11 rebounds. Guard Rhys Martin had 15 points for the Hawks, including 7/9 from the free-throw line.
The Breakers scored first through Pledger, but fell seven points behind as their guests reeled off a 10-2 run midway through the opening quarter.
That deficit grew to double figures during the second period and they still trailled 32-39 at halftime. While they had created twice as many scoring opportunities from the floor, the Breakers had only converted 34% and were ice cold from the three-point arc (0/10).
But particularly crippling was the overwhelming foul count that saw the Hawks shoot 13/19 from the line, essentially the difference between the two teams.
But the Breakers clawed their way back to within three points heading into the home straight, with Daryl Corletto hitting the Breakers' first trey in the final seconds of the third period.
The home side nosed ahead briefly and were even at 59-59 with three minutes to play, before Rhys Martin and Glen Saville hit consecutive baskets to give Wollongong their decisive edge.
Corletto got his side back within two points, and he, American Cedric Jackson and Leon Henry had chances to draw even again inside the final minute, but they couldn't find their mark.
In the final analysis, New Zealand outscored their opponents 40-16 in the paint, but could not match their seven three-pointers and 15-8 advantage at the free-throw line.
The two teams now travel to Hamilton for the third and final encounter of their series on Saturday.
Wollongong Hawks 64 (Rhys Martin 15, Larry
Davidson 13, Oscar Forman 11)
NZ Breakers 61 (Alex Pledger 18, Cedric Jackson 10, Will Hudson 10)