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Munford, Qi star as Phoenix down Breakers

South East Melbourne Phoenix have claimed just their second win in their last nine games, beating cellar dwellers New Zealand Breakers 99-89 in their NBL clash.

A 25-10 third quarter powered the Magic to the home victory on Sunday and condemned the Breakers to a seventh straight loss.

Sporting an eight point buffer at the main break, the sixth-placed Phoenix registered 11 unanswered points to start the second half before their lead grew as high as 24 as the Breakers dried up on offence.

It took the Breakers almost four minutes to get a bucket as Xavier Munford played facilitator for the Phoenix, while big man Zhou Qi combined with the guard to shut-out their opposition.

With a 23-point lead heading into the final 10 minutes, Munford and Qi continued their tandem offence to put the Breakers to bed, even with their opposition scoring the highest final-quarter tally (35) of the season.

Munford finished with a game-high 25 points plus eight assists, five rebounds and four steals, while Qi had 22 points and four blocks.

But Phoenix coach Simon Mitchell said the fourth-quarter performance left a sour taste in his mouth as the Breakers surged late.

“There’s aspects that I liked, there’s certain areas of the game that we’ve been horrible at for a little while…it’s good to be winning, it’s good to get a win, we needed it,” he said.

“But we’ve got to close games out a hell of a lot better than that.

“It’s going to be on my mind for next two and a half hours driving home because it’s another aspect of the game that we’ve we’ve struggled with, and we continue to work on and we want to see some results from it.”

The Phoenix had enjoyed a 52-44 lead at the main break after some late triples to Izayah Lea’fa (18 points) stifled the momentum built by Ousmane Dieng and the Breakers.

Both teams enjoyed six points leads throughout the opening quarter as Qi went to work early, but New Zealand fired back to be within two at quarter time.

The difference on defence was Munford and his four steals gave his side extra possessions as the Breakers were forced into seven first-half turnovers.

But their offence ran through Dieng, who was a perfect 6/6 from the field with four from beyond the arc on his way to 18 first-half points.

He could only muster four more in the second half as the Breakers tough season on the road continued with their 20th loss of the campaign.

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