Main rivals cut the Breakers to shreds in opening encounter of season
Wildcats 93 Breakers 72
They unfurled their 2011-12 championship banner on the North Shore last night, but if they are to add another this season, the Breakers have some serious improving to do.
Being cut to shreds by your main rival on your home court is hardly an ideal way to start a quest for a historic third straight title.
The problems for the Breakers were numerous. They couldn't stop the Wildcats in transition, and fared little better from the half court.
They couldn't penetrate the Perth team's zone defence, eventually resorting to a barrage of three-pointers in a desperate attempt to claw their way back into a game that was gone mid-way through the second quarter.
They didn't have a run stopper, and were seemingly powerless to halt the 20-2 and 18-0 Wildcats explosions that blew the game wide open. They got smashed on the boards 36-24.
"We played like we were running in mud," coach Andrej Lemanis said.
"They played with a much better desire and hunger than we did. The first-half defensive energy and effort wasn't where it needed to be."
Alex Pledger's elevation to the starting centre role wasn't exactly a resounding success. He struggled to make an impact early, then sat on the bench when things got desperate - and that wasn't long in coming.
He scored eight points, but didn't manage a single rebound all night.
Gary Wilkinson has flitted from Estonia to Puerto Rico since departing the club. One wonders whether Lemanis still has his number.
In fairness, it is only one game, and Perth were very, very good. With Matt Knight (20 points, nine rebounds), Shaun Redhage (16) and Kevin Lisch (20) in rollicking form, the Wildcats are an offensive powerhouse.
Positives? Well, Tom Abercrombie's dicky ankle looked all right, although there was a late scare when he took an age to recover after tumbling to the floor when conceding a turnover.
Point guard Cedric Jackson, who led the Breakers with 19 points, had his three-point stroke going, and new import Will Hudson looks an industrious type.
But the Breakers have a long way to go to match the standards they set over the past two seasons.
"I wouldn't ring the alarm bell just yet," forward Dillon Boucher said. "We've still got 27 games to go ..."
Corey Webster's return from a one-year doping suspension wasn't exactly the stuff of fairytales, with the North Shore local going 1-6 from the field and committing two turnovers.
The Breakers did at least make an encouraging start, edging to an 18-12 lead mid-way through the first quarter. Everything seemed to be clicking okay; certainly there was little sign of the carnage to come.
But a 20-2 Wildcats run put them in the box seat, before another 18-0 streak left the Breakers for dead.
Jackson poured in four three-pointers in the third quarter but the Wildcats had an answer for everything the Breakers threw at them.
With Redhage and Lisch keeping the scoreboard rattling along at a steady clip, the Breakers never seriously threatened a comeback.
While at a loss to explain the lack of effort in key areas, Lemanis wasn't overly concerned his side had flopped on opening night.
"You are never happy when you play like that - ever. But it is just one game. We have still got 27 to go."By Steve Deane Email Steve