Breakers win tight final for historic third ANBL title

By Kris Shannon

The Breakers celebrate winning their third straight Australian Basketball League title. Photo / Getty Images
The Breakers celebrate winning their third straight Australian Basketball League title. Photo / Getty Images

Two playoff sweeps plus three straight championships equals one historic dynasty for the New Zealand Breakers.

The two-time defending champions became only the second side in the Australian NBL to win three titles in a row, beating the Wildcats 70-66 in a thrilling encounter at Perth Arena early this morning.

Predictions of a tight tussle between these two titans were proven correct but an 11-0 run from the Breakers to begin the third quarter broke the deadlock and decided the season, despite a heart-stopping comeback from the hosts in the fourth.

The victory seals the Breakers' place in the competition record books and means Dillon Boucher will head into retirement with his 13th championship in Australasian basketball.

Boucher may not be the only Breaker to have pulled on the singlet for the last time. Point guard Cedric Jackson, the league's most valuable player, is destined for bigger and better things, while coach Andrej Lemanis may very well have earned the Australian Boomers job by besting rival Rob Beveridge.

If this group are broken up they will be remembered as one of the most dominant teams New Zealand sport has seen. The Breakers won a club-record 16 consecutive games this season en route to a 24-4 regular season record, before sweeping Sydney and Perth to put an exclamation point on an amazing campaign.

For the third straight year the Breakers beat Perth in the postseason and, having clinched a close-out game on the road for the first time, there is little left to prove.

After joining the 2003-05 Sydney Kings in securing a three-peat of titles, the next mark for the Breakers to challenge is Perth's record of five championships. Their great rivals will undoubtedly have something to say about that but the sky seems the limit for the North Shore club.

The Breakers today sent 13,500 rabid red-clad Wildcats fans off into the night with a bitter taste in their mouths, backing up their 12-point victory in game one in Auckland with a huge defensive effort.

CJ Bruton did what he does this time of year, draining four three-pointers to lead the Breakers with 16, while Jackson scored his 14 all in the second half, included a huge three late in the game.

Coming into the contest, the Wildcats had won 14 straight games in their home gym by an average of 19 points. The Breakers had won just three times in Perth in franchise history and they had dropped two games in Western Australia this season by a combined 40 points.

But the Breakers bucked that trend, helped by a cagey opening quarter which ended with a one-point lead for the visitors.

Points continued to remain at a premium for the remainder of the half as the teams went to the major break tied at 29.

The Breakers poured in the opening 11 points of the second half as the Wildcats went wayward for five minutes and, although Perth eventually came out of their slump, the lead was in double digits heading to the fourth.

A frenzied effort from the hosts to begin the fourth saw them pull within one, but the Breakers barely held their nerve courtesy of a couple of clutch free throws from Bruton.

- APNZ

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