NZ Breakers have ended their ANBL season with a hard-fought, spirited 83-78 defeat to South East Melbourne Phoenix at Trust Arena in Auckland.
The home side needed a victory to have the opportunity to rise above the Adelaide 36ers and into sixth place, but Phoenix showed their class to all but assure them of a playoff spot.
The home side were led by the impressive Tai Webster (26 points), a double-double to American import Colton Iverson (10 points, 12 rebounds) and Finn Delany who chipped in with 18 points and seven rebounds.
The New Zealand side came home strong in the final quarter to set a grandstand finish, but they couldn't execute when it mattered most to hand Melbourne their 19th victory of the season.
Phoenix were lead by American import Keifer Sykes who had a game-high 29 points (five assists, seven rebounds) and he was supported by his Kiwi teammates Ruben Te Rangi (10 points four rebounds), Yanni Wetzell (eight points, seven rebounds) and Australian Ben Moore (11 points, eight rebounds).
The contest was tight in the opening quarter with both sides going bucket for bucket, to see the two teams deadlock 26-26 at quarter time.
The key quarter came in the second stanza with South East Melbourne outscoring the Breakers 26-16 thanks to 21 first half points to Sykes to open up a 52-42 lead at halftime.
The home side improved in the third quarter but couldn't make any headway into Phoenix's 10-point lead to trail 67-57 with 15-minutes to play.
The Breakers started the final stanza with back-to-back three pointers to Delany and Webster to show their fighting spirit that had been showcased all season.
The home side rallied to within four points with just over two minutes to play thanks to a clutch trey from William McDowell-White.
Webster came to life in the final stanza with 11 points to send the thunderous Trusts Arena crowd into a frenzy as it looked like the Breakers might claim a come from behind victory.
Webster couldn't get a jump shot to go with four seconds remaining that saw Ryan Broekhoff claim a crucial rebound to seal the five-point victory.
South East Melbourne Phoenix 83 (Sykes 29, Moore 11, Te Rangi 11) bt Breakers 78 (T Webster 26, Delany 18, Iverson 12)