James Hunter’s Breakers fall in season opener

James Hunter. Photo: NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS

James Hunter. Photo: NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS

CAMBEWARRA’S James Hunter and the New Zealand Breakers went down in their first game of the new National Basketball League season, beaten 82-71 by the Cairns Taipans at Spark Arena at the weekend.

Early signs were promising as the Breakers eased out to a 21-18 lead at the first break, extending that by one at halftime. But a slow start in that second half proved costly, as Cairns won the third 25-12 to establish a lead they were not to give up to the final buzzer.

“It looked like the first game of the season for us and it looked like Cairns had had a game already,” head coach Paul Henare  said.

“Even in the first half we had a little momentum and some offence, but there were unforced errors that come with a lack of sharpness.

“We will learn a lot from this and in terms of match fitness they will be sharper moving forward.

“There are things to improve obviously but we are not reinventing the wheel.

“The scoring dried up, that is what Cairns force you to do and then ground away at the other end, and we just couldn’t get any momentum in the second half.”

Henare wasn’t drawn too much into conversations around a foul count that went against his side

“I thought it was lopsided, especially at 24-11 in the third quarter, it kind of evened up with some calls in the second half but I don’t think we changed the way we played, we stayed aggressive,” he said.

Best for the Breakers was Tom Abercrombie, his game high 24 points included 4 of 9 from deep, with imports Edgar Sosa (18) and DJ Newbill (12) the only others in double digits – while Hunter made his debut in the competition, spending 34 seconds on the court.

“Obviously we are at our best when we spread the scoring and share the ball, I haven’t looked at the scoring spread in detail yet for tonight, but that wasn’t us at our best for sure,” Henare said

But every time the Breakers threatened to eat into the nine-point deficit from three quarter time, momentum was lost with a turnover or missed possession.

They were getting plenty of stops in the final quarter but could not back it up with buckets at the other end.

The numbers in isolation did not look too bad for the home side, shooting at 41 per cent from the floor (38 per cent from deep) and winning the rebounding count 42-36, but turnovers (13) proved costly, as did the foul count, with both Mika Vukona and Rob Loe fouling out early and Alex Pledger having to play limited minutes with four early calls against him.

Next up for the Breakers are the Sydney Kings on Friday night, back at Spark Arena.

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