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Hawks beat Breakers by nine points in NBL

NZN 20/01/2017

American import Kevin Dillard has shrugged off a slow start to lead the New Zealand Breakers to a crucial 95-86 defeat of the Illawarra Hawks in Wollongong.

The Breakers trailed by 13 midway through the second quarter on Friday night before storming back to be down 52-50 at halftime at WIN Entertainment Centre.

The Hawks were held to 34 points in the second half and missed 23 of 33 shot attempts.

After missing three of his first four shots, Dillard scored his team's final six points of the first half. He caught fire in the third quarter, finishing with a game-high 26 points, while veteran sharpshooter Kirk Penney added 23 against his former team.

AJ Ogilvy scored a team-high 16 points for Illawarra and guard Rotnei Clarke finished with 14.

The lead changed hands 11 times in the first period before the Hawks' bench combined for 15 points to spark the home side to a 31-23 quarter-time lead.

Illawarra pushed the margin out to 13 in the opening minutes of the second period.

But the desperate Breakers responded by outscoring the Hawks 25-12 over the next seven minutes to tie the game at 48-48.

The Hawks did just enough to grab a two-point halftime lead, but they had missed their chance to put the game away and a rampant Breakers had all the answers in the second half.

New Zealand join Sydney in fourth spot with their 11th win of the season, while Illawarra (12-11) remain second.

Both teams have to back up for games on Sunday, with Illawarra away to Cairns and the Breakers hosting Perth.

Breakers coach Paul Henare said he was proud of his side.

"Basketball is a massive game of momentum and we were able to get it and keep it in the second half," Henare said.

"Every game is massive and we have another massive game on Sunday, a series decider against Perth."

Illawarra coach Rob Beveridge believes his players lost the mental battle in the second half.

"It was good for us to experience that, because even though we obviously don't like the loss, if we're going to be a playoff team we need learn how to fight through that," Beveridge said.

"Tonight was exactly the story of our season. The inconsistency is still there and you never know what you're going to get from week to week.

"We missed a lot of open looks and it's nothing but mental. New Zealand played great. They're playing like a team that wants to be in the play-offs."

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