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Breakers secure 89-81 win over Crocodiles

The Townsville Crocodiles kept fighting, but the defending NBL Champions, the New Zealand Breakers had all the answers to score an 89-81 victory at Vector Arena - even without leader Mika Vukona, who for the first time in his Breakers' career, sat out due to injury. While the Breakers regained Tom Abercrombie and Alex Pledger from the team that lost in Adelaide on Wednesday, Vukona's hamstring strain saw him miss his first NBL game since 2009, following 210 consecutive NBL appearances. It was the first game the Breakers have played without him since he returned for the 2010/11 season, but with three-time Championship-winning point guard Cedric Jackson running the show, they came away with the eight-point win on the same afternoon they raised their Championship banner in the stands. Both teams suffered disappointing losses to open the season, with New Zealand going down in Adelaide by 19 points and Townsville giving it up to Melbourne by 15, but it was the Breakers who led the entire match despite the Crocodiles continuing to fight hard. Cedric Jackson captured his fourth NBL triple-double with 14 points, 13 assists and ten rebounds while Everard Bartlett made the most of his chance opened up by Corey Webster trialling in the NBA with 19 points on the back of shooting 7-of-9 from the field, including 5-of-7 from long range. Reuben Te Rangi nailed all three of his attempts from beyond the arc on his way to 12 points for New Zealand while Abercrombie added 11 points, Tai Wesley 11 (eight rebounds), Charles Jackson 10 (nine boards) and Pledger eight (four rebounds, two blocks). Jordair Jett ended up top-scoring for the Crocs with 16 points while reigning MVP Brian Conklin finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds, but 13 of his points came in the first half. Corey Maynard added 10 points for Townsville, Mitch Norton nine and Mirko Djeric eight. Cedric Jackson scored his team's first five points of the game to set the tone. An 8-0 run midway through the first quarter saw New Zealand open its first double-digit lead and that's around the mark it remained. Conklin hit nine second quarter points for the Crocs to see the visitors within six with 45 seconds remaining after a basket by Luke Schenscher, but a remarkable play on the half-time buzzer told the story of the game. Cedric Jackson threw the in-bounds pass off the back of Townsville's Mitch Young, got the pass to an open Bartlett who drilled the triple and the Breakers led 48-38 at the main break. A couple of early threes to start the second half from Djeric kept Townsville in the contest, but New Zealand remained in control with Bartlett nailing a three, and Te Rangi with two of his own long bombs to close the third quarter. Young big man Nick Kay gave the Crocs the first four points of the fourth period to make the margin just eight points, but seven straight Breakers points to Abercrombie, Bartlett and Cedric Jackson all but sealed the deal with over six minutes left. The Crocodiles never gave up and a big couple of minutes from Jett with eight points gave them a shot, as did a triple to Leon Henry and a three-point play to Maynard, but it wasn’t enough and the Breakers had the answers for their first win of the 2015/16 NBL season. New Zealand Breakers 89 (Bartlett 19, Jackson 14, Te Rangi 12) Townsville Crocodiles 81 (Jett 16, Conklin 15, Maynard 10) BOX SCORE
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