The New Zealand Breakers found yet another way to stretch their NBL winning streak, edging the Wollongong Hawks 72-71 at the North Shore Events Centre for their sixth straight victory.
Down by 12 points soon after half-time, the two-time defending champions rallied to survive a nail-biting final minute, where a solitary Mika Vukona free throw with 20 seconds remaining the difference.
With the Hawks trailing by two points with 3.8 seconds on the clock, Adris Deleon had free throws to force overtime, but missed his second attempt and Wollongong could not regain possession for another chance.
"The good thing is we are finding ways to win," reflected Breakers veteran Dillon Boucher.
"That's what good teams do. It wasn't pretty for a lot of the game, but we did enough to be on top at the end."
Deleon led all scorers with 34 points, but New Zealand benefited from a very balanced scorecard led by Tom Abercrombie’s 15 points as they claimed a Heritage Round win.
Wollongong, playing without injured guards Rhys Martin and Lance Hurdle, gained a little edge early in the second quarter when Tyson Demos and Oscar Forman stroked consecutive three-pointers to spark a 10-2 run.
By half-time, their advantage had stretched to seven, Deleon penetrating at will and often finding his bigs open under the basket, while Auryn Macmillan intimidated the Breakers around the basket defensively while chipping in nine points of his own.
"The tempo in the first half suited them, not us," said Breakers coach Andrej Lemanis.
"We played into their hands a bit - we're a team that generates opportunities and momentum out of defence, and we didn't do that in the first half. In the second half we did a better job of addressing that."
The margin stretched into double figures after the restart when Deleon hit a three and then converted a steal into an open-court lay-up.
But the hosts upped their defensive intensity and began to find points easier to come by with a struggling Jackson on the bench, reeling off 10 straight to close the deficit.
Corey Webster fed Leon Henry for an emphatic dunk and the Breakers drew level with an Abercrombie three.
When Jackson stole the ball and lobbed it for an Abercrombie dunk early in the fourth they were six points clear and running, but Wollongong was not going to surrender the game that easily.
Veteran Larry Davidson scoring seven points in the final moments to give the visitors a chance to force overtime, but Deleon couldn't finish the job from the free-throw line.
"It was a fantastic effort," insisted Hawks coach Gordie McLeod, ruing the loss of Martin and Hurdle.
"We fought extra hard, as we have all season.I was really proud of the effort we put in, but it's so disappointing when you get so close and can't get over the line."
In the final analysis, the Breakers grabbed 20 offensive rebounds and outscored their opponents 17-7 in second-chance points.
"That amount of possession will kill you," McLeod said.
New Zealand Breakers 72 (Abercrombie 15, Pledger 12, Jackson 10)
Wollongong Hawks 71 (Deleon 34, Forman 12, Macmillan 11)
Crowd: 4000 at North Shore Events Centre, Auckland