New Zealand Breakers veteran Tom Abercrombie drilled a game-winning three-pointer as time expired to hand his side a dramatic 76-73 victory over Cairns Taipans in the NBL Cup.
The Breakers appeared on their way to a fourth win of the season at John Cain Arena on Wednesday after dominating the first half and surging ahead by 19 in the third stanza.
Cairns staged a spirited fightback to draw level late in the fourth quarter, Mirko Djeric connecting on a long bomb with 14 seconds remaining to seemingly send the game into overtime.
But after Tai Webster’s late effort was blocked by Cam Oliver, the 33-year-old Abercrombie produced a memorable finish after collecting the long rebound and launching the game-winner from beyond the arc.
“It’s obviously an awesome feeling any time you can hit a game-winner,” Abercrombie said following his final-second heroics.
“It was not exactly how we drew up the last play … I was lucky it just kind of floated towards me and I was able to catch it in rhythm and let it fly.”
Coach Dam Shamir was pleased to see his side find a way to win with key pieces Corey Webster and Lamar Patterson missing through injury.
“Everybody will remember that shot and rightly so,” Shamir said after the win.
“We obviously need to reinvent ourselves a little bit as we are a different team without two of our main creators. The main thing is we stopped them on 73 points and this is what eventually gave us a chance to win.”
While both teams were out of cup contention, there was plenty at stake with the loser to be stuck at the bottom of the NBL ladder.
Early baskets to Oliver and Scott Machado handed Cairns a 5-0 start but the Breakers scored the next 13 points in a row and edged ahead 24-11 with all five starters finding the basket in the first quarter.
A 9-2 opening to the second quarter appeared to lift Cairns but Abercrombie steadied the Breakers as they held the Taipans to 31 per cent shooting for a 46-32 halftime advantage.
“It’s super frustrating that we would let ourselves come out and play like that in the first half,” coach Mike Kelly said, feeling his team’s indecisive start proved costly in the end.
“To see the guys play so well in the second half and be in attack mode on both ends … while it was great, it was such a huge deficit that it was frustrating to know that if we would have started in that sort of manner, we had a better shot of winning this game.”