Basketball: Boucher says Breakers can repeat without Penney

By Kris Shannon

Dillon Boucher is confident his side can be repeat Australian NBL champions. Photo / Greg Bowker.
Dillon Boucher is confident his side can be repeat Australian NBL champions. Photo / Greg Bowker.

Breakers forward Dillon Boucher says the team have been confident since "day one'' they have the ability to overcome the loss of Kirk Penney and become repeat Australian NBL champions.

They're tantalisingly close to translating that confidence into another minor premiership, but when the bright lights of finals basketball are on full, will Penney's absence be magnified or forgotten?

"Kirk was a great go-to guy but we've got some fantastic scorers on this team as well,'' Boucher said. "They've proved game-in, game-out they can score in big moments.''

Those scorers have helped position the Breakers within one win of their first goal. A victory over lowly Adelaide in South Australia tomorrow will secure top spot and home court advantage throughout the playoffs, with three games left to play.

That certainly sounds like a team that have moved on after being shorn of one of the league's best players, but the playoffs are a different story.

It could be argued the Breakers wouldn't have a title to defend it it wasn't for Penney's presence during the last campaign. The prolific scorer, who now plays in Spain's top league, led the North Shore club to a 22-6 record before saving their season in the first round of the playoffs.

Facing elimination in the league's toughest venue, Penney terrorised Perth to the tune of 38 points in a narrow victory, enabling the Breakers to fight another day and eventually clinch their maiden crown.

But Boucher thinks, if a similar situation arises, the new Breakers are also equipped to handle a must-win game.

"Kirk put 38 points on the board but it was the team which was able to get him those 38 points. We worked very hard to get him those points, and we'll work just as hard to get Tom [Abercrombie] shots and just as hard to get CJ [Bruton] shots or Gary [Wilkinson] shots.

"There are different guys in that spot now, so the 38 points may be combined between three players this time. When you had a weapon like Kirk Penney you had to use it, and that's exactly what we did - we rode on his back to the championship.''

Although they can no longer rely on Penney to carry them when the going gets tough, the Breakers' two off-season recruits will certainly offer assistance. Daryl Corletto is having a career year and said he is enjoying his basketball more than ever, a fact emphasised by the Australian putting pen to paper on a new two-year contract last night, while American point guard Cedric Jackson is having an MVP-type campaign.

"Cedric brings another dynamic to the team as well, by coming in and being able to get into the lane and draw players and score himself,'' Boucher said. "When we put this team together, we were confident we had the ability to win a championship.''

Despite that attitude, Boucher said the team had talked little about the impending playoffs or potential championship rings.

"Anytime you can win back-to-back championships it's hard. The first one's hard and the second one's even harder.''

While Boucher was referring to the target opposition teams place on the back of the defending champions, that statement, like the Breakers' season, has the spectre of Kirk Penney looming large over it.

But just in case any Australian sides were anticipating an easier showdown with a Breakers side sans Penney, Boucher sounded a warning.

"This team still haven't played to their full potential and we still haven't played a full 40 minutes of good basketball.

"When we do that, look out.''

- APNZ

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