Basketball: Yanni Wetzell leads the way as Breakers get on the board in Australian NBL
The New Zealand Breakers are on the board. After starting their NBL campaign with six straight defeats, the Breakers finally got off the mark on Sunday night with a shaky 88-83 win over the Brisbane Bullets.
While less than convincing down the stretch, the Breakers will take solace in notching their first win of the campaign — with Yanni Wetzell again looking like the signing of the season.
With 27 points, Wetzell was immense in Brisbane, making his mark early to push the Breakers to a big lead, before playing a crucial role in closing out the win.
It was a familiar showing from Wetzell, but for the first time this season, several players contributed significantly. Hugo Besson again showed his offensive chops in scoring both from three-point range and driving to the rim, while Jeremiah Martin took over in the fourth quarter with the ball in his hands and Finn Delany had an important defensive impact.
As has been the case most of the season, the Breakers got off to a great start. Moving the ball early and working for high-percentage looks, Wetzell made his touches count in the paint with 11 early points, while he was also drawing fouls and setting up teammates.
With Peyton Siva returning from injury, giving the team a needed playmaker and providing a spark off the bench, the Breakers coasted to a 13-point lead after the opening 10 minutes.
It was Brisbane's largest quarter-time deficit of the season, but that 13-point buffer was quickly reduced to six and an eerily familiar feeling would have begun to set in for Breakers fans as the team have struggled to hold their leads this season.
Brisbane got the better of the quarter, but the Breakers held onto a nine-point halftime lead, before scoring the first seven points in the third period and appearing to have turned a corner in their second-half play — coming into the game having been outscored by 57 points in second halves this season.
Brisbane made the Breakers sweat midway through the third quarter as the hosts slowly ate into the lead, as the visitors had moved away from what worked early, with just seven points separating them heading into the fourth quarter.
But the final period saw Martin take over. The American import showed off his playmaking abilities, setting up teammates and getting to the rim himself to lift the side.
It was a nervy finish for the Breakers, with Brisbane drawing within two points several times in the quarter. However, having not played since Boxing Day, the Breakers looked relatively fresh in the final stanza and weren't to be beaten this time around, closing out an important win.
NZ Breakers 88 (Yanni Wetzell 27 points, Hugo Besson 12)
Brisbane Bullets 83 (Lamar Patterson 17 points, Nathan Sobey 14)
1Q: 26-13 HT: 45-36 3Q: 66-59