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Horror injury shock in Breakers' NBL loss

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 26/01/2017

NZ Breakers forward Akil Mitchell has been taken to hospital with a horrific eye injury suffered during their 94-81 NBL loss to the Cairns Taipans. © AAP Image/Tony McDonough NZ Breakers forward Akil Mitchell has been taken to hospital with a horrific eye injury suffered during their 94-81 NBL loss to the Cairns Taipans. A grotesque eye injury to New Zealand Breakers forward Akil Mitchell isn't as serious as first thought, says the club's general manager Dillon Boucher. Mitchell's freak injury scarred the home team's 94-81 NBL loss to Cairns in Auckland on Thursday night.

The American fell to the floor in agony early in the final quarter after what seemed to be an innocuous poke to the face while contesting a rebound with Taipans centre Nnanna Egwu resulted in his left eyeball coming out of its socket.

The injury left his teammates visibly upset, along with fans near the baseline. Some Breakers players gathered in a huddle to say a prayer for the 24-year-old former University of Virginia player.

The game was halted for about 15 minutes before Mitchell returned to his feet and was assisted from the North Shore Events Centre, his head covered by a towel.

He was taken by ambulance to hospital for treatment. Boucher said specialists at Auckland Hospital had diagnosed a small amount of damage to Mitchell's eye.

"The early reports are very positive that the injury is not as serious as first feared," Boucher told journalists.

"Akil's immediate recovery has been such that he is being released to return home, but will undergo further medical tests tomorrow. "This is obviously the best possible news after what was a frightening situation."

Boucher was "extremely proud" of the way the incident was handled by the Breakers and the courage shown by the players and coaches in completing the game.

Mitchell was easily the Auckland team's best performer before the injury with 13 points and 10 rebounds.

The Breakers struggled to lift after his exit, with an eight-point deficit ballooning out to 15, from which they never recovered. Cairns captain Cameron Gliddon shot a game-high 26 points.

Cairns were deserved winners, completing a 4-0 sweep of the Breakers to climb from seventh to a mid-table berth with an 11-12 record. The Breakers' (12-13) four-match winning streak grinds to halt. They are caught in a dogfight for the three playoff spots alongside runaway leaders Adelaide.

In better injury news, the Tall Blacks' Tom Abercrombie returned from a broken hand after nearly a month on the sideline.

He looked short of a gallop with 11 points. Kirk Penney (18) and Mika Vukona (16) were the most-productive Breakers.

Gliddon landed his first six three-pointers and finished with seven in total, while veteran forward Alex Loughton shot 21 points and was part of a strong rebounding display.

The Breakers are away to Sydney on Sunday while Cairns host last-placed Brisbane on the same day. 

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