Basketball: NZ Breakers close in on ANBL top-two finish after brilliant comeback victory over Illawarra Hawks

NZ Breakers' hopes for a top-two finish in the Australian NBL remain on course, after a stunning fightback victory over Illawarra Hawks at Wollongong.

Down 50-34 at halftime, the Kiwi side rallied in the third and fourth quarters to the scoreline around for a 91-81 victory - their 17th of the season.

Fresh from guiding the Breakers back to the playoffs after five years' absence, coach Mody Maor made his initial frustrations clear, but hailed his side's response.

"It was an abysmal first half from us in every aspect," Maor said. "Why, we need to go and find out so it doesn't happen again, but the response in the second half was great,  both from an effort and from a focus standpoint.

"It showed a lot of character. "With what this game means to us and how important it is to come into the second half, and play steady, strong, consistent and keep them to nine points in that third quarter, it was good."

The victory sees the Breakers snatch second place on the ladder and they can sew up a top-two finish with victory over Brisbane Bullets on Saturday night. That result would guarantee an automatic semi-final place, with a home advantage.

Imports Barry Brown Jr (22 points) and Jarrell Brantley (20 points, six rebounds) led the way for the Breakers, while William McDowell-White (eight points, four rebounds, four assists) also stood out.

Mody Maor in action against Illawarra Hawks
Mody Maor in action against Illawarra Hawks. Photo credit: Getty Images

Brown's performance was all the more impressive, given he only played 19 minutes on the court.

Tyler Harvey stood out for the Hawks with 22 points, but lacked support from his teammates, with the next best scorers being Sam Froling (17 points, six rebounds, five assists) and Lachlan Dent (11 points).

The Breakers enjoy a higher points percentage than the Taipans and can also take second place on a countback, if Cairns Taipans fall to Perth Wildcats on Friday night. 

NZ Breakers 91 (Brown Jr 22, Brantley 20, Abercrombie 11) Illawarra Hawks 81 (Harvey 22, Frolin 17, Dent 11)