Basketball: Breakers thumped in decider

By Kris Shannon

Casey Prather attempts to shoot over Alex Pledger in game three of the Australian NBL grand finals. Photo / Getty
Casey Prather attempts to shoot over Alex Pledger in game three of the Australian NBL grand finals. Photo / Getty

Wildcats 75
Breakers 52

A team renowned for thriving in big moments tonight came up woefully small at the worst possible time.

The Breakers waited until the last game of the campaign to produce their ugliest offensive performance, losing their grand final decider against Perth in ignominious circumstances.

Whether it was one long trip to Western Australia too many or whether the cracks that had appeared this season were deeper than first thought, the Breakers were of no match for their old rivals.

"It's a pretty shitty feeling," said Tom Abercrombie, a rare bright spot for his side. "We didn't play like we needed to in a game three and it's disappointing to play like that in a game that meant so much."

As it happened: Breakers v Wildcats

That disappointment was understandable, given the 52 points the Breakers managed was the lowest score in grand-final history. It also easily accounted for their lowest total of the year, slipping under the bar set during a six-game losing streak that saw the defending champions slide out of the playoff places.

Considering the depth of that late-season hole, coach Dean Vickerman did brilliantly to rally his side to within one game of a fifth Australian NBL championship. But the coach's tenure came to the most unfortunate of conclusions at Perth Arena.

A pair of tight tussles had left the series locked level heading into the decider where, once again, defence was on top. The difference in game three, however, was the Breakers being unable to muster any semblance of a functioning offence.

"We just didn't score enough points," said assistant coach Paul Henare." The guys worked their arses off - it wasn't through a lack of effort. We just got beaten by a better team. They were better than us and more desperate and, as much as it hurts to say, that's what it came down to."

That gulf in quality was especially evident during the Breakers' nadir, an eight-point third quarter that left the Kiwi club with 38 from the first 30 minutes, their lowest ever three-quarter total. And the numbers were equally unseemly no matter the category being assessed.

Cedric Jackson, a man whose three seasons in New Zealand had produced three championships, exemplified his side's struggles. The point guard's outing came to a premature conclusion when he fouled out early in the fourth, having managed more turnovers (two) than points (zero).

It was the first time in his Breakers career Jackson was held scoreless but the American was far from alone. Corey Webster's late-season decline culminated with seven points on three-of-13 shooting, part of a team-wide effort of 27 per cent shooting from the floor.

Only Abercrombie, who almost single-handedly kept his side in the contest, achieved an acceptable level of production, but his game-high haul of 21 was never enough.

The Wildcats certainly deserved their record seventh title, particularly inspirational skipper Damian Martin. The home side hassled and harried the Breakers at every opportunity and were even more dominant on the boards than their 48-42 supremacy suggested.

"We allowed them to play how they do, bully us around and push us around," Abercrombie said. "We just coughed up the ball too many times and allowed them to get too many offensive rebounds."

Ceding so many second chances in the first half was a worrying harbinger of what was to follow. A 12-point halftime deficit quickly blew out to insurmountable margins and, with the Breakers' shoulders slumping further with every miss, these serial winners ended the season in unfamiliar fashion.

Wildcats 75 (Prather 19, Beal 14, Martin 10)
Breakers 52 (Abercrombie 21, Webster 7, Wesley 7)
HT: 42-30

- NZ Herald

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