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Hawks down Breakers to strengthen playoff push

The Illawarra Hawks have rebounded from their last-start loss to Sydney to keep their finals chances well and truly alive with a much-needed 75-67 win over the New Zealand Breakers in Launceston.

New Zealand led for most of the match on Monday night as NBL Round 16 continued until they were overrun in the final quarter by a rampant Hawks attack.

Tyler Harvey was virtually unstoppable with the rock in his hands, finishing with 29 points including three triples including a dagger late. 

But it was Justin Simon (12 points, six rebounds) who sealed the result with a huge block on Thomas Abercrombie in the final minute that denied any chance of a Breakers comeback to go with his stifling defence all evening.

Sam Froling was also influential with 11 points, four rebounds and four assists.

While there was no doubt that Harvey and Simon were the stars, Hawks coach Brian Goorjian paid credit to young players Daniel Grida, Emmett Naar and Froling for their role in their win.

"Their role is so important right now with the guys we have out," he said.

"We had made moves this season to bring some young guys up and play them around certain guys. Those guys aren't playing right now, so those young guys have a lot of pressure on them.

"Our only chance, our only hope in this is to play off our defence. The group played with great defensive energy on that end, the desperation, the fight in them is something that I am really proud of."

Abercrombie (14 points, four rebounds) and Tai Webster (14 points, five assists) paced the Breakers while William McDowell-White was a strong contributor in the absence of a hamstrung Levi Randolph with 13 points, five rebounds and three assists. 

It was not enough, though, and it just might have slammed the door shot on the Breakers hopes of storming into the #NBL21 finals.

Disappointed Breakers coach Dan Shamir admitted fatigue got the best of his side after playing five games in 10 days.

"Every loss it tough, we are very disappointed every time we lose," he said.

"We really struggled with our offence (in the second half) with turnovers and out shot making, maybe there was a little bit of fatigue.

"We tried to do the right things, and at the end of the game we didn't do them exceptionally great in the second half, but it was already a bit of a mess.

"Overall, it is a disappointing loss, it is part of life, I feel like the guys gave their best."

Shamir said Randolph has suffered a minor hamstring tear and would miss some games, although it is unknown exactly when he will return.

"We don't know how long, but it not going to be too long."

It was a huge match for both sides in terms of their finals hopes, as they both are heading into a string of home games to finish off the season. It was the Breakers final game in their home away from home at The Silverdome where the Tasmanian locals have embraced them this season.

The win keeps the Hawks chances of going from last season's wooden-spooners to a finals team well and truly alive - especially with seven of their final eight games to be played in Wollongong.

The Breakers were without Randolph with a hamstring complaint after he hit the match-winner against Perth on Saturday. The Hawks also have now parted ways formally with former NBA player Deng Adel but they did welcome back Justinian Jessup from injury.

In the absence of Randolph, Tai Webster became the main man for the Breakers in the early exchanges he quickly rattled up 10 points, while older brother Corey had seven as New Zealand eased to a 33-26 advantage. 

It could have been more if not for the Kiwi's woes at the free throw line, landing just 3/8 attempts.

Tyler Harvey quickly closed the gap himself with a trademark triple followed by a slashing cut to the rim that highlighted his danger anywhere on the court. The Breakers pushed out to a nine-point lead but again the Hawks came at them, another Harvey splash cutting the margin to just two points.

Harvey put an exclamation mark on his first performance with the last basket of the half, piling on 21 points to level proceedings at the main break.

The Breakers again surged out to a five-point buffer but the Hawks kept the scoreboard ticking over and refused to let New Zealand get away. The Breakers were doing a good job of keeping Harvey out of the contest and the Hawks import did not add to his halftime points tally in the quarter.

Simon pulled off a three-point play for the Hawks late in the quarter which brought them back to within three and also put Colton Iverson on the bench for the Breakers with foul concerns. Then when Sam Froling landed two free throws in the shadows of three quarter-time, the Hawks had their noses in front by a point.

The Hawks exploded out of the blocks in the final quarter, extending their run to 14-0 and pushing out to an eight-point lead - their biggest of the night so far. 

The Hawks were on fire and Harvey was hitting shots for fun again, his triple in the seventh minute of the quarter giving his side a winning 13-point lead.

The Breakers were not about to hoist the white flag and replied with an 8-0 tear of their own to set up a thrilling final minute which wasn’t quite enough ultimately.

HUNGRY JACK'S NBL ROUND 16

NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS 67 (Abercrombie 14, T Webster 14, McDowell-White 13)

ILLAWARRA HAWKS 75 (Harvey 29, Simon 12, Froling 11) 

BOX SCORE 

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