Basketball: Back-to-back champions

By Steve Deane

Breakers player Cedric Jackson heads for the hoop during last night's game. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Breakers player Cedric Jackson heads for the hoop during last night's game. Photo / Sarah Ivey

The Breakers preached that effort was the only thing that would get them over the line in their quest for consecutive ANBL titles - they were bang on.

There was just too much tension for last night's epic decider to be anything but a knock-em down drag-em out affair.

When the dust settled, the Breakers were the ones left standing, but what a mighty effort it required. That this fine basketball team was pushed so hard for so long was a testament to the quality of their foe.

The Breakers are a brilliant side with depth to burn. The Wildcats are a more industrious bunch built on the four central pillars of Kevin Lisch, Shawn Redhage, Matt Knight and Damien Martin. They don't have the same depth, and that ultimately proved decisive, but the Wildcats are one hell of a team. This is a rivalry that will run and run.

There were plenty of on-court heroes for the Breakers this season, but the man who ultimately got them home was veteran guard CJ Bruton. The Australian lashed in two dagger three-pointers in the closing minutes to all-but kill off the Wildcats after 12 furious quarters - not to mention an overtime period in game one.

Tom Abercrombie's stunning block on Redhage was the coup de grace.

With seven of the squad already locked down for next year, we might just be witnessing the birth of a sporting dynasty.

One of the first people coach Andrej Lemanis hugged during the on-court celebrations was physiotherapist Anousith Bouaaphone. Well he might have, with the club battling through injuries to key players Cedric Jackson and Abercrombie throughout the finals.

Every quarter was bitterly contested during a finals series that lived up to the pundits' predictions it would be a classic.

The Breakers just edged the match last night thanks to some early long-range fireworks from Abercrombie and Bruton. However the Wildcats were always in the fight and they closed strongly to trail by just one point at the first break.

A prolonged scoreless spell saw the Breakers' shooting percentage drop to a subterranean 30 per cent, allowing the Wildcats to establish the first significant lead of the match in the second quarter.

But no team has been able to stay clear for long in the series and the Breakers duly clawed their way back to trail by just two at the half-time buzzer.

Jackson's classy buzzer-beating drive begged the question as to why he wasn't the may with the ball in the final seconds of game two, however the Breakers would have no time for pondering such questions during the half-time interval.

Stopping the outstanding Knight, who poured in 15 points for the Cats in the half, would have been top of the agenda.

Levelling up a rebound count that was stacked against them 18-12 would also surely have come up.

"Boards get rings" was a snappy line offered by Dillon Boucher in the build-up to last night's match. While they never got on top in that regard, the Breakers did stop the bleeding. That allowed Gary Wilkinson to take control at the start of the fourth quarter.

What Wilkinson started, Bruton and Abercrombie finished, with Bruton - whose two classic three-pointers would have been re-enacted long into the night - deservedly being crowned series MVP.

- NZ Herald

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