Basketball: Under-strength Breakers drop regular season finale

By Kris Shannon

Leon Henry of the Breakers during the match against the Gold Coast Blaze. Photo / Getty Images
Leon Henry of the Breakers during the match against the Gold Coast Blaze. Photo / Getty Images

Gold Coast 94
Breakers 71

The Breakers were unable to match last season's 22-6 regular season record after going down 94-71 to the Blaze on the Gold Coast tonight.

But any thoughts of the defending champions being dealt a significant blow heading into the playoffs will be banished after a quick glance at the starting lineup.

With a semifinal series against Townsville set to begin at Vector Arena on Friday night, coach Andrej Lemanis opted to rest several big guns and hand their minutes to some of the younger members of the squad.

Tom Abercrombie and Mika Vukona were the only Breakers' regulars named in the starting five, with Alex Pledger, Leon Henry and Josh Bloxham stepping off the bench. The men they replaced - Gary Wilkinson, Daryl Corletto and Cedric Jackson - were all given the night off, as was veteran CJ Bruton.

That left the Breakers with just eight players suited up, including former junior Tall Black Morgan Natanahira who had yet to play a minute this season, something which well-and-truly signalled the Breakers' intentions for the game.

By contrast, Gold Coast - losers of six of their last seven against New Zealand - started with lineup closely resembling full-strength, perhaps attempting to gain some confidence should the sides eventually meet in the finals series.

Both teams appeared content with their roles - the Breakers to rest wary bodies and satisfy themselves with a 21-7 record, the Blaze to build some momentum heading into a semifinal series of their own against second-placed Perth.

Some flawless first half shooting from Gold Coast confirmed that storyline and the Breakers never threatened, nor appeared motivated, to force their way back into the contest. The Breakers still managed to get five players into double figures with one of the senior members of the team, 24-year-old Tom Abercrombie, leading the team with 15 points.

As was perhaps expected in a game where the result mattered little, defence took a back seat in a high-scoring opening quarter.

The lofty scoring was helped by Gold Coast being unable to miss from three to open the game, hitting seven-for-seven with Chris Goulding proving particularly deadly in nailing all four of his attempts from deep.

That saw the Blaze jump out to a double digit lead late in the quarter, but the Breakers pegged them back to go into the first break behind 31-23.

Both teams were shooting at more than 50 per cent from the field, but Gold Coast's impressive form from behind the arc meant they ran their lead to 14 midway through the second quarter. The Blaze finally missed a couple of shots from three but another success, their 10th from 12 in the game, saw Gold Coast take a commanding 21-point advantage into the halftime break.

The third quarter fell into something of a holding period, with the Blaze's lead getting no higher than 22 but the Breakers never managing to close the gap to fewer than 14. That was at the last break, with Gold Coast leading 70-56, and whatever minute amounts of intrigue the game once held all but disappeared.

The fourth quarter threatened to turn ugly for the Breakers, with the gap growing as high as 27 points, before the game drew to a staid close.

It was an anticlimactic end to another superb regular season for the Breakers, but now the real fun starts.

Gold Coast 94 (Goulding 20, Deleon 14, Worthington 13)
Breakers 71 (Abercrombie 15, Pledger12 Henry 11)
HT: 55-34

- APNZ

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