Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Basketball: Breakers must keep close tabs on Lisch

Dillon Boucher and his teammates will be keen to wrap up the premiership tonight. Photo / Greg Bowker
Dillon Boucher and his teammates will be keen to wrap up the premiership tonight. Photo / Greg Bowker

The Breakers are expecting a special welcome to "The Jungle" tonight but they are preparing a hostile reception of their own for key Wildcat Kevin Lisch.

American import Lisch top scored with 27 points in game one of the best-of-three Australian NBL finals series won in overtime by the Breakers in Auckland last week.

What is reassuring for the Breakers, though, is that he hit only nine field goals from 23 attempts (39 per cent) and two out of eight three-pointers (25 per cent).

That was down to defensive pressure, and with Lisch's name coming up a few times during the Breakers' final training session this week, there is no doubt they want to get in the face of the 25-year-old guard born in Belleville, Illinois.

"That shooting percentage was obviously good for us," coach Andrej Lemanis said. "There are things that you can always do better but, certainly, for the most part we made him take tough, contested shots.

If you do that he's going to hit some of them, he's a great player, but that's the challenge, can you keep making him take those tough, contested shots?"

As Lemanis said, the Wildcats won't be providing anything different in a match which they have to win to keep their finals' hopes alive. Teams revert to type under pressure, which means Perth will again lean heavily on Lisch, named the league's most valuable player this season.

He averages 17.4 points this term which gives an insight into his offensive threat. What it doesn't show is his competitiveness and even temperament.

His sporting pedigree is also beyond reproach. His dad, Rusty, was a quarterback in the NFL with the St Louis Cardinals and Chicago Bears and played college football with Joe Montana and then Walter Payton once he hit the big time.

"I just grew up playing with my dad in the yard every day and he always loved basketball, too," Lisch told a college website several years ago. "I just really never wanted football because I liked basketball so much."

It will be up to the Breakers to limit the errors and attempt to stop Lisch and his teammates going on the type of scoring runs which put them under immense pressure in the first and third quarters last week.

Forward Dillon Boucher was in no doubt that the Breakers have room for improvement.

"We have a lot of areas to work on. The start of the first quarter and third quarter alone were shocking," he said. "We could have won that game by 20 points if we had played better."

The Breakers left on a direct eight-hour flight for Perth yesterday, with a healthy squad after the illness which struck down Dillon and fellow forward Gary Wilkinson earlier in the week.

The Wildcats have had sickness in their squad too, with co-captain Shawn Redhage, Perth's second-best offensive player, also struck down with a virus. Luke Nevill has been laid low with illness and Matt Knight was under a cloud with a thumb injury but all three are expected to play. Tom Abercrombie is expected to play for the Breakers, despite not training this week because of his injured ankle.

He reportedly had a pain-killing injection on Wednesday.

Wildcats coach Rob Beveridge said the key for his side was narrowing the Breakers' long-range options.

"They are the best three-point shooting team in the league and that's what we pointed out to our boys," he said. For the Breakers, the message is simple, keep a lid on Lisch.

If not, the series is likely to go to a decider at the Vector Arena next Tuesday night.

- APNZ

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