Henare ad­mits to Break­ers form fears af­ter lat­est loss

The Timaru Herald - - CATALYST - BAS­KET­BALL

Six losses in nine games might not qual­ify as a gen­uine slump, but Break­ers coach Paul Henare’s ad­mits to grow­ing con­cern about his team’s re­cent form.

The Break­ers were beaten 90-79 by the Illawarra Hawks on Satur­day night in Wol­lon­gong, leav­ing them with a 12-7 record af­ter win­ning nine of their first 10 games. Newly signed im­port Ra­keem Christ­mas (14 points, eight re­bounds) was im­pres­sive in his ANBL de­but, but the Break­ers were over­run by the Hawks in the fi­nal pe­riod af­ter trail­ing by just two at three-quar­ter time.

‘‘The Hawks de­served to win, but for what­ever rea­son we can’t sus­tain dis­ci­pline or mo­men­tum and it’s an is­sue right now,’’ Henare said. ‘‘We haven’t been able to put the foot on any­one’s throat, and un­til we get that killer in­stinct we’re go­ing to al­low teams to hang around.’’

The Hawks built an early five­point lead in the first pe­riod be­fore Christ­mas briefly turned the game in the Break­ers’ favour with eight points, three re­bounds, a steal and a block in a five-minute stint off the bench, as the Break­ers pulled ahead 21-18 at quar­ter-time.

The hosts opened the sec­ond pe­riod with eight unan­swered points, but the Break­ers didn’t flinch and the lead changed hands sev­eral times as half­time ap­proached, with the Hawks go­ing to the break up 46-44.

ANBL MVP con­tender Demitrius Conger (17 points, 10 re­bounds) raised the bar with a flurry of points in the third pe­riod to put the Hawks up by seven, though the Break­ers closed the gap to 60-58 at three-quar­ter time.

How­ever, with Australian Boomers rep Nick Kay (20 and nine) match­ing the Break­ers’ Edgar Sosa for points on the night, it was the home side with the des­per­a­tion down the stretch to com­plete the job.

Henare is now look­ing ahead to his side’s stiff task on Thurs­day night when they host league lead­ers Mel­bourne United, own­ers of a seven-game win streak.

‘‘We get to mea­sure our­selves against the num­ber one team in the com­pe­ti­tion,’’ he said. ‘‘We’re in a dog­fight to get in the play­offs.’’

One player who will surely help in that fight is Christ­mas, part­ner of Michael Jordan’s 25-year-old daugh­ter Jas­mine, who grew up play­ing the sport in the Vir­gin Is­lands, be­fore be­ing drafted to the NBA by the Min­nesota Tim­ber­wolves in 2015 and even­tu­ally play­ing 30 games for the In­di­ana Pac­ers over two sea­sons.

‘‘He was re­ally ef­fec­tive,’’ Henare said. ‘‘Hope­fully it’s a sign of things to come.’’

Stand­ing 2.06m and weigh­ing 113kg, Christ­mas ex­pects to im­prove with each game.

‘‘I was out there try­ing to catch my wind and it’ll take a cou­ple games to get it back,’’ the for­mer Uni­ver­sity of Syra­cuse star said.

Illawarra’s ninth win of the sea­son kept them in fi­nal four con­tention with nine games re­main­ing.

‘‘It’s go­ing to be tough to make the play­offs, but we’ve got New Zealand and Ade­laide three more times each and at least we know des­tiny could be in our hands,’’ Hawks coach Rob Bev­eridge said.

MARK NOLAN/GETTY IM­AGES

The Hawks’ Tim Coen­raad drives to the bas­ket against the Break­ers.

GETTY IM­AGES

Break­ers coach Paul Henare has ac­knowl­edged the form slump his side is in.

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