NBL: Breakers homecoming marred by Hawks steal in heartbreaking loss in Wollongong

Finn Delany of the Breakers goes flying as Illawarra Hawks' Justin Simon grabs the ball. A crucial Simons steal secured a win for Illawarra. Picture: STUFF SPORTS.

The New Zealand Breakers fell agonisingly short of ending their stay in Australia with a win, going down 73-71 to the Illawarra Hawks in an NBL thriller.

The Breakers flew home on Sunday after being forced to spend the past 153 days away from family due to coronavirus-enforced travel restrictions.

And they could’ve celebrated by getting on the plane with a win, having fought all the way back from 15 points down to claim the lead midway through a tense final quarter.

Illawarra, once again led by star import Tyler Harvey (game-high 24 points), also got some clutch plays from big man Simon Froling, who finished with 12 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks.

The Breakers twice had a chance to pinch the victory in the final minute, however William Mcdowell-White missed a floater, and Tai Webster had his pocket picked by Justin Simon in the final seconds.

Simon (11 points and 11 rebounds) backed up his game-sealing steal with a free throw to ice the game, breaking the hearts of a Breakers side who’ve battled adversity all season.

“It’s not about being proud. We already know this about us. We don’t quit. With everything that happened to us, we almost never get blown out,” Breakers coach Dan Shamir said.

“Obviously we’re struggling a little bit to get to 90 points, we’re missing players … you need almost a perfect game. It’s really tough to get.”

 

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