Basketball: Breakers coast to fifth-straight victory

By Steve Deane

Mika Vukona of the Breakers takes the rebound during the round 11 NBL match against the Cairns Taipans in Auckland. Photo / Getty Images
Mika Vukona of the Breakers takes the rebound during the round 11 NBL match against the Cairns Taipans in Auckland. Photo / Getty Images

Court general Cedric Jackson has a dodgy ankle, Tom Abercrombie is in a serious funk, Leon Henry has gone cold and CJ Bruton is out of the side altogether. None of that seems to bother the Breakers a jot.

Last night the defending champions and current NBL pace-setters coasted to a fifth-straight victory, smashing the Cairns Taipans by 20-points in a grand final rematch in front of a sellout crowd on the North Shore.

With some of the big guns struggling, Daryl Corletto picked up the slack, pouring in a career-high 26 points, including 21 in a first half in which he hit five of his seven three-point attempts. Corletto is loving life at the Breakers since departing Melbourne Tigers in acrimonious circumstances. It's easy to see why. It has taken him just 13 games to eclipse a personal scoring mark carved out over 10 seasons in Melbourne.

With the peerless Mika Vukona continuing to power the engine room, Gary Wilkinson (13 points) approaching his usual level of production and Alex Pledger (10 rebounds) providing some serious muscle from the bench, the Breakers have the depth to ride out most storms.

They will, however, be concerned about Abercrombie's alarming tail-off, with the swingman following up a solitary point last time out in Adelaide with a one from eight shooting display last night.

Jackson's ankle appears less of a concern. After hobbling about for much of the first half he simply switched into overdrive in the final quarter, scoring 12 straight points from a variety of highlight reel plays to put the match to bed.

A sloppy start that saw the Breakers go scoreless for almost the first three minutes was quickly forgotten as Corletto found his range. Two first-quarter threes from the Australian got the Breakers moving and they closed the opening spell with a 21-16 lead.

With Jackson clearly favouring his damaged ankle and Abercrombie's aim well astray, coach Andrej Lemanis went deep into his bench early. At one stage the Breakers fielded rarely-seen line-up of Josh Bloxham, Henry, BJ Anthony, Alex Pledger and Corletto.

The way Corletto continued to drain the threes it hardly mattered who was on court with him. A 6-0 Taipans run to start the second quarter was quickly erased by an 8-0 Breakers response, with Corletto knocking down his third and fourth bombs of the night. A fifth soon followed as the Taipans bizarrely opted to leave him open on the perimeter. They paid a high price, with Corletto ending the half with 21 points and the Breakers leading 47-33.

A fired up Wilkinson chipped in with nine points, while Alex Pledger produced a nice four-point six-rebound cameo from the bench.

The impressive Andrew Warren led the visitors with 12 points but, with Alex Loughton's eight points the only other significant contribution, the Taipans were already facing an eight-straight defeat at the NSEC.

The visitors shaded a low scoring third quarter 11-9 but Jackson took the game away almost single-handedly to put the result beyond doubt early in the final period.

The win takes the Breakers to 10-3, padding their lead over the Perth Wildcats at the top of the ladder.

They now face a tough three-game stretch, with trips to Perth, Cairns and Melbourne over the holiday period.

The next home game is against Adelaide on January 13.

- APNZ

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