Basketball: Wildcats chasing redemption at Vector

Breakers player Tom Abercrombie may recover from a strained ankle to reach the finals match. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Breakers player Tom Abercrombie may recover from a strained ankle to reach the finals match. Photo / Sarah Ivey

The Perth players yesterday sat through recent video of the Breakers ahead of tonight's first ANBL final at Vector Arena. They might as well have just rolled the tape on last year's final series to get them primed.

The Breakers famously recovered from a 101-78 hiding in the first game in Auckland to win the series 2-1. It's a series defeat that cut Perth deeply, especially as they were chasing back-to-back titles. Many of the players even vowed to stick with the club to attempt to right the wrong.

"It's definitely been in our minds the whole year," said Perth forward Shawn Redhage, who missed the finals series with a hip injury. "We were frustrated with the way it ended. To get back in the grand final and have a chance to redeem ourselves is something we have been working towards all year."

Redemption would be particularly sweet for Redhage, who was cut from the Breakers in 2004 after only 13 games, and there are few players in the league who polarise opinion in the way the 31-year-old does.

It didn't help he was infamously elbowed in the delicate area by former Breakers guard Phill Jones, who became frustrated by Redhage's niggly attentions. Jones was slapped with a one-game ban.

It was the catalyst for a rivalry that has bordered on hatred between the sides. In last year's third game of the finals, as Perth saw their title hopes slip away, Andre Brown jabbed Mika Vukona and was ejected from the game. And just last month, the Wildcats accused the Breakers of over-celebrating their 101-99 double overtime victory in Perth.

"I think there is respect on both sides," Redhage said. "But I have never said you need to like an opponent. I think you are probably not doing yourself or your team justice if you like an opponent.

"They are the No1 team in the league, they have the championship, they beat us two out of three times [this season] and they have the home-court advantage so we have a lot against us but I think we like it that way as well. We will come in as the underdogs but it will take a special effort to win.

"They play well together and all know their roles. Just watching the film, they are a together group and have weapons coming off the bench with the likes of CJ Bruton. There's not one guy you can take for granted. We are going to have to play well, shoot the ball well and try to limit their effectiveness on the offensive end."

Perth recorded 19 wins and nine defeats this season to finish behind the Breakers (21-7).

Kevin Lisch was recently named the league's MVP, Jesse Wagstaff and Damian Martin have the potential to hurt the Breakers from outside and Redhage continues to be a menace in his seventh season with the Wildcats.

In 20 meetings with the Breakers since being axed, Redhage has averaged 19.3 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.1 steals. The Breakers don't need video to know they need to limit his effectiveness.

- APNZ

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