The Platinum Homes Harbour Breeze completed their 2020 Sal’s NBL 18IN18 regular season with a fifth straight win after defeating the Etco Auckland Dream 72-59 at Pulman Arena on Tuesday.
The Breeze led by as many as 25 points early in the fourth quarter and had to survive a late comeback from the Dream before closing out a decisive win.
The Breeze (5-0) will now await the outcome of the remaining two 18IN18 regular season games before finding out their semi-final opponents for Friday night.
The result was a third successive loss for the Dream (2-3) meaning they will only contest the semi-finals if the Kāpura Capital Swish beat the Waikato Wizards on Wednesday.
Ash Kelman-Poto played a captain's knock scoring 19 points for the Breeze. Brooke Blair was close behind with 18, Ella Fotu scored 13 and Jazz Kailahi-Fulu had nine.
For the Dream, Sharne Robati and Casyn Buchman tallied 15 points each, Arielle Williams-Mackey finished with 10 and Olivia Berry was all energy against her former team grabbing a game-high 11 rebounds.
Four of the top five scorers in 18IN18 took the court in this game with the Breeze duo of Brooke Blair and Ash Kelman-Poto looking to get the ascendancy over the teenage pair of Sharne Robati and Arielle Williams-Mackey.
It was Blair first on the board, the Breeze shooting out to an 8-0 lead. Buchman scored the next five points before Fotu landed from deep to extend the Breeze lead to 13-4. Robati converted from inside but the Dream trailed 20-6 at quarter time.
Another run from the Breeze stretched the advantage to 26-8 before Jelena Vucinic knocked down a corner three and Rionne Papa got inside for two, but the Breeze replied immediately through forwards Kailahi-Fulu and Kelman-Poto. The defending champions had plenty to contemplate at halftime trailing 35-18.
Williams-Mackey and Zara Jillings exchanged threes at the outset of the second half. When Williams Mackey repeated the dose and Katelin Noyer also scored from deep a Dream comeback was in motion – the deficit just 11 points (44-33).
Blair returned to convert from beyond the arc and Fotu cancelled out Noyer’s basket – Breeze 52-35 to the good.
Kelman-Poto took the Breeze lead beyond twenty points early in the final frame, but the Dream refused to lie down putting together an 11-0 run and necessitating a Jody Cameron timeout.
Robati made it a 13-0 run – 60-48 with 4 minutes to play before Kailahi-Fulu finally made a score for the Breeze.
The Dream scored again through Buchman but Blair and Fotu combined to ease the nerves and settle the match ahead of semi-final one on Friday.
Two games remain in the regular season with the Swish taking on the Wizards on Wednesday and the Firebrand Otago Gold Rush facing the Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats on Thursday.
Breeze 72 – Kelman-Poto 19p, Blair 18p, Fotu 13p, Kailahi-Fulu 9p, Jillings 8p
Dream 59 – Buchman 15p, Robati 15p/9r, Williams-Mackey 10p, Berry 3p/11r
SkyCity Hotel MVP Votes:
Brooke Blair (Breeze-6), Ash Kelman-Poto (Breeze-5), Sharne Robati (Dream-5), Casyn Buchman (Dream-5), Amanda Buck (Dream-4), Ella Fotu (Breeze-4), Arielle WIlliams-Mackey (Dream-1).