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Vukona doesn’t want to taste a losing Grand Final

Mika Vukona would like nothing more than to send off coach Dean Vickerman with another NBL Championship and having never a lost a Grand Final Game 3 gives the New Zealand Breakers hard man confidence of celebrating again at Perth Arena. Vukona has won five NBL Championships, one with the South Dragons in 2009 and then with the Breakers in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2015. He has never played in a losing Grand Final Series throughout his remarkable 363-game career. He now finds himself leading the Breakers into another Game 3 on Sunday at Perth Arena with the Championship on the line against the Perth Wildcats. Win or lose, the game will be the last that Vickerman coaches the Breakers in with Paul Henare to replace him for the 2016/17 season. Vickerman was assistant coach to Andrej Lemanis for the Breakers first three Championships and then led them to the 2015 triumph. Vukona wants to win for Vickerman, but more to the point he feels the team is such a powerful unit because of their coach. "You always want to send out guys who have put their heart and soul into the team in the right way," Vukona said. "The guys are doing that right now with the way that we are going about it and doing our work. A team is always a reflection of their coach and the boys are proud to be here representing him, and we'll go out there and lay it all on the line." Vickerman isn't focusing on the fact that Sunday is his last game in charge of the Breakers and instead is doing everything he can to ensure his team is well equipped to bring home a fifth Championship of the last six NBL seasons. "It doesn’t change for me. We have another game to prepare for, we have a chance to win a Championship and we'll reflect on all the other things later on," Vickerman said. "I was just proud of our group on our home floor to show a greater desperation than we showed in Game 1. We had people diving on the floor and all the things that comes with a great final. ''We made key plays down the stretch and I'm just really proud to win another Grand Final game in front of our home fans. We had a great record at home this season and we want that to continue in the years to come." New Zealand took to North Shore Events Centre on Friday night needing to win to force a decider on Game 3 after a narrow loss in Perth in Game 1 on Wednesday. The Breakers got the victory 72-68 in a game that was tough, tight and physical but both teams didn’t execute how they hoped. But the win was all that mattered for Vukona and he and his team head back to Perth to play on Sunday confident of celebrating another win at Perth Arena like they did in 2013. "This was real important for us and that's what might have caused the ugliness of the game, but it was do or die and we were going to do everything in our power to get the win. Going over there, yes they are going to have the crowd behind them but we also have confidence," Vukona said. "We've won Championships before and we believe in the processes and what the coaches have for us. At the end of the day, we've always believed that and that's what is going to carry us through." Vukona doesn’t feel the hectic travel schedule of this week will decide the result on Sunday but the resilience of his group of fighting through adversity means they hold no fears trying to win another Championship on the road. "Both teams are in the same boat so really you have nothing to complain about. You just have to go out there and play. We have always stuck together through and thin, especially through that tough time during the season," Vukona said. "That showed a lot of resilience and I think it's going to help us along the way, especially going into that third game. We know we can weather most storms and that's the great thing about this team. We've always had the confidence in what we can do regardless of what is put in front of us." Vickerman is also confident in the Breakers' preparation to be ready to win on Sunday. "We went over there with the plan that if it went three we had to give ourselves the best chance and now we jump on the plane feeling good about ourselves," Vickerman said. "We went close last time over there, we have pulled a close one off over here and we back our strength and conditioning coach. He's done a great job all year getting us to peak fitness and we'll go and practice over there, and be ready to go."
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