The Illawarra Hawks have made their first NBL Cup win after overcoming the disappointing New Zealand Breakers to record a 102-88 win.
The Hawks dominated the opening game of Monday’s double header at Melbourne’s John Cain Arena thanks to a strong defensive effort and hot shots from long range, Brian Goorjian’s side finishing with 16 three-pointers on the night.
Tyler Harvey (22 points) and Justinian Jessup (20) each made four triples while Cam Bairstow scored 3-for-3 from outside the line en route to 17 points.
The Hawks led 54-40 at half-time then answered New Zealand’s every challenge to ensure there would be no repeat of their second-half defeat against Cairns in Saturday’s NBL Cup opener.
“The big thing I like about this group is going through adversity – we went through a lot of losing styles … disappointments – but individually and as a team these guys carry on with it the next day and keep trying to move forward during these challenging times. , “said the Goorjian.
New Zealand are hoping to use their maiden NBL Cup appearance as a turning point for their season, having lost four of their opening five games to sit two wins adrift at bottom.
But the Breakers exposed a series of mishaps in the second quarter, resulting in a 33-19 surge from Illawarra and a 14-point lead in the first half.
“The second quarter hurt us terribly,” said Breakers coach Dan Shamir after his squad gave up 12 turnovers which resulted in an immediate 18 points for the Hawks in that period.
“We came with the right mentality and attitude, but we broke serve very easily in the second quarter … another tough day.”
The Breakers closed the margin to nine points towards the end of the third stanza but luck was in the Hawks’ favor when Jessup’s three goals tallyed despite appearing to be let go after shot time.
Bairstow and Harvey quickly added three points as the lead ended at 81-64.
Corey Webster led the Breakers with 22 points and Tai Webster added 20, while American Colton Iverson had the most rebounds (17) of any player this season.
New Zealand took a hit in the third quarter when Lamar Patterson limped off with a knee injury, leaving the All-NBL First Teamer twice in the race to be fit in Thursday’s clash with the Sydney Kings.
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