Basketball: Lucky No 13 for Breakers

By Kris Shannon

Corey Webster of the Breakers. Photo / Getty Images
Corey Webster of the Breakers. Photo / Getty Images

With both their coach and their spiritual leader marking major milestones, the Breakers were never losing this one.

And so it proved at Vector Arena last night, as the defending champions destroyed the Adelaide 36ers to celebrate the achievements of Andrej Lemanis and Mika Vukona in style.

The victory was the first time this season the Breakers have topped 100 points, coming in Lemanis' 250th game in charge of the club and Vukona's 200th outing in a Breakers singlet.

Those numbers added up to a 13th straight victory for the league-leaders (21-3), who extended their club record streak and increased their lead over the pesky Perth Wildcats (19-5). With four games to come, including a final-day showdown in Western Australia, the Breakers remain in the box seat for a third straight minor premiership and home court advantage throughout the playoffs.

Lemanis, the man who has brought all that success, could not have hand-picked better opposition than Adelaide for his landmark game.

The Breakers have now beaten Adelaide in 15 consecutive contests and, aside from a brief second-quarter comeback, the 36ers looked like a last-placed side for much of proceedings.

That owed a lot to a high-powered Breakers offence, which started fast after a two-week break and all but sealed the game with a dominant 30-12 third quarter.

Vukona was a large part of that, typically all action at both ends of the floor and registering 11 points, seven assists and five steals. He became the third Breaker to reach 200 games and now trails only Paul Henare (250) and Dillon Boucher (212).

"He's obviously been a big part of this club getting to where it's got,'' coach Andrej Lemanis said. "It's just unfortunate that Mika's 200th fell at the same time as my 250th, because I think that some of Mika's 200th game for us got lost.''

Vukona was one of many Breakers to burst out of the blocks as the team looked well on the way to win No 13 during an explosive first quarter, shrugging off the long lay-off and looking relieved to be finally let loose.

There was plenty of slick passing, some deadly shooting and few visible signs of rust as the Breakers raced out to a 28-15 lead after the opening quarter. The Breakers were also excelling in the paint, perhaps surprisingly so considering the continued absence of the injured Will Hudson, with Alex Pledger grabbing five first-quarter rebounds.

Vukona was providing a valuable helping hand in the interior, filling up the stat sheet early in his milestone game as the Breakers continued to look lethal on offence. But, courtesy of three straight triples from Adam Gibson, Adelaide clawed their way back into the game and got within five at the half.

Gibson's efforts were enough for the 36ers to outscore their opponents by eight in the period, leaving the Breakers in need of greater intensity on defence in the second half.

"I thought our defence went in and out in the second quarter but, apart from that stretch, I'm pretty pleased with how we played,'' Lemanis said. "Coming off a two-week break, you're always a little concerned about the rust that's in the system ... but we were able to play our way out of it.''

That began immediately in the second half, with the Breakers upping the tempo on offence to begin the third quarter on a 13-2 run. Cedric Jackson burst to life with 11 points, including one memorable steal and put-back from a Daryl Corletto miss, as the Breakers took a 23-point lead into the final break and virtually killing off the contest.

Just about the only remaining intrigue was whether the Breakers could crack 100 for the first time this season. And, with their bench emptied and seemingly stuck on 99 for an eternity, a triple from development player Tai Webster finally sealed the century.

Breakers 104 (Jackson 18, Abercrombie 16, Corletto 15)
Adelaide 79 (Petrie 16, Johnson 15, Gibson 15)
HT: 51-46

- APNZ

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