Basketball: Breakers pound Perth for 10th straight

By Kris Shannon

Sky City Breakers Daryl Corletto clashes with Perth Wildcats Everard Bartlett.  Photo / Richard Robinson
Sky City Breakers Daryl Corletto clashes with Perth Wildcats Everard Bartlett. Photo / Richard Robinson

If the Breakers and Perth do what most expect and set a grand final date for April, the defending champions will feel rather relaxed about the rematch.

The Breakers picked the right time to score their season-high in points, pounding Perth by 17 points at Vector Arena to seize the initiative in the pursuit of the Australian NBL minor premiership.

The victory was the Breakers' 10th in a row, extending their club-record streak, and enabled New Zealand to exact an element of revenge after two heavy defeats at the hands of the Wildcats this season.

With those losses coming by a combined 46 points, the Breakers seemed determined to hand out their own hiding in front of 9200 fans.

Once they recovered from a slow start and took their first lead in the second quarter, the Breakers proceeded to pour in the points and ensure they will have happy memories of the venue should the teams return in the postseason.

Coach Andrej Lemanis again praised the depth of his roster, saying he thought the bench brigade were responsible for changing the course of the game.

"[After the first quarter] it had been pretty much the same as what we had seen from [Perth] before,'' he said. "That's where we started subbing, and I thought that group did a fantastic job of starting to turn the tide.''

The Breakers' hot shooting of recent weeks continued as five players hit double figures, led by MVP-in-waiting Cedric Jackson with 22. CJ Bruton, meanwhile, became the Breakers' second leading all-time scorer, surpassing Aaron Olson's 1800 points to trail only Kirk Penney (2517).

New Zealand also won the rebounding battle, a key to Perth's two previous triumphs this season in which they accrued a 77-47 advantage.

"It was the first time in a long time we won the boards [against Perth],'' Lemanis said.

"When you play Perth that's an area of focus. After that first quarter, we did a much better job of that.''

That first quarter began in a similar vein to the Breakers' double-overtime victory at Vector Arena in game one of last year's grand finals series, with Perth bursting out to an early lead before the home side hit back.

The Breakers were guilty of forcing things offensively and slumped 14-2 behind, but the good vibes generated by an on-court marriage proposal at quarter-time appeared to rub off and the home side emerged from the break with a vengeance.

Back-to-back triples from Daryl Corletto gave his side their first lead, before the Breakers embarked on a 21-5 run to close the quarter. That surge was capped by a three just before the buzzer from Jackson, leaving the point guard leading all scorers with 16.

The Breakers' buffer was soon at 16 points as Bruton scored six in 30 seconds, courtesy of a Jackson steal sandwiched by back-to-back threes.

And things soon got better for the Breakers with former favourite Shawn Redhage being forced to take a seat after entering foul trouble _ much to the mirth of the crowd.

With the Breakers taking a 20-point lead into the final break and only a catastrophic collapse standing between them and a win, the home side headed into the final period with revenge on their minds.

That was evident early in the fourth, when Mika Vukona and Corletto got in Kevin Lisch's face after the former drove to the hoop, and it continued throughout the fourth.

The only disappointment for the Breakers was being unable to crack the ton _ but they were more than content with the dominating performance against their old rivals.

Breakers 98 (Jackson 22, Bruton 14, Webster 14)
Perth 81 (Knight 16, Wagstaff 14, Redhage 12)
HT: 52-42


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