Basketball: Breakers counting on bounce back from sharp-shooters

By Kris Shannon

Corey Webster narrowly missed the chance to send the game into overtime. Photo / photosport.nz
Corey Webster narrowly missed the chance to send the game into overtime. Photo / photosport.nz

Coach Paul Henare will be encouraged by what he's seen from the Breakers so far this season. But he will be even more buoyed by what he hasn't.

The Kiwi club came within one shot of emerging perfect from their challenging start to the Australian NBL campaign, narrowly losing 75-73 to the defending champions in Perth on Friday night after proving too good for title-favourites Melbourne a week earlier.

And that 1-1 record has arrived without truly receiving a key contribution from either Kirk Penney or Corey Webster.

The two shooting guards have shone in patches for the Breakers and, in any case, Henare pinpointed his side's failure to make second-quarter defensive stops as the pivotal element of the Perth defeat. But there's no doubting how dangerous the Breakers will be when Penney and Webster find form.

And that is a when, not if. Both players have the pedigree and recent performances to confirm the fact their slow starts will prove little more than an aberration.

Penney, for example, is averaging 10 points a game so far this season, shooting just 29 per cent from the field. Compare that to his output with Illawarra last year, when he sat second in the league with 20.4 points per game on 45 per cent shooting, and Henare can count on a bounce back.

It's a similar story with Webster. Bumped to the bench by Penney's arrival, Webster also averages 10 point this season on a more respectable 38 per cent shooting, marks both down on last season when he led the Breakers with 19.8 points per game while shooting at 40 per cent.

There is nothing to suggest either player will struggle to again attain those heights, and when the shots do start falling these Breakers will represent even more of a handful.

Regardless of the pair failing to yet seize control of a game in a manner similar to Perth's Casey Prather, who produced a game-winning 29 points on Friday, Henare is still happy with how his offence in functioning. The Breakers have enjoyed a good spread of scoring in their opening games and, given that was one hallmark of the championship years, Henare was keen for it to continue.

"We were well-balanced again," the coach said. "Different guys stepped up and different times and that's what I'm asking of this team, to keep sharing the ball and keep looking for each other and lock in defensively."

The Breakers battled with that final task in the second quarter against Perth, allowing the home side a 25-11 advantage and sending themselves into a slump from which they were unable to recover.

They came close, though. Webster had a chance to send the game to overtime in their final moments but, after aggressively driving the lane, his floater was short.

"This is a tough environment to play," Penney said. "To come down the stretch and have a shot to tie it, it was a great opportunity for us to make that play.

"And we will make that play as the year goes on."

- NZ Herald

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