Basketball: Dream partnership delivers for Breakers

By Kris Shannon

Kirk Penney scores against Daniel Johnson of Adelaide during the round four NBL match. Photo / Getty Images
Kirk Penney scores against Daniel Johnson of Adelaide during the round four NBL match. Photo / Getty Images

Once the Breakers secured the signature of Kirk Penney during the off-season, any daydreams of what he could achieve alongside Corey Webster must have looked much like Saturday night.

With two of the last season's three leading scorers now playing in partnership, the offensive threat of that shooting guard combination appeared in theory too tough for any Aussie NBL team to contain.

In practice, though, it was initially a little different, as both men endured indifferent starts and the Breakers slumped into an early 1-3 hole. But when Penney and Webster together found form to blow away Adelaide at Vector Arena, it seemed as though the daydream had at last become reality.

"The numbers would suggest that," said teammate Tom Abercrombie. "They were both able to find success playing together, which was probably the first time they've been able to do that this season.

"They really excelled when they were both out on the court, and that was great to see. They were enjoying each other's success out there and, when those two are going, they're pretty tough to stop."

Indeed, Penney and Webster shared the court for three stints totalling 12 minutes and 27 seconds, about half of each man's total time on the floor. They took turns running the offence and assisting each other, finishing with 49 combined points in the Breakers' biggest tally in a regulation game since February 2009.

But, while it was the barrage from beyond the arc that proved unstoppable for Adelaide, what most pleased Paul Henare about the performance was the balance of his side's offence.

"We weren't just throwing the ball up from the perimeter - we were getting some movement, we were throwing the ball inside," the coach said. "Between Mika [Vukona] and Akil [Mitchell], those guys had 10 assists, so that meant the ball was going inside and we had variation in terms of how we're scoring."

The efforts of Mitchell, in particular, offered a different look when Penney and Webster took a break from draining the deep ball. The first-year import has quickly adjusted to the Australian NBL and his stat line of 17 points, 11 rebounds and five assists represented his best contribution as a Breaker.

"He plays both ends and he creates something different - he's different from the other three bigs that we have in the line-up, with his athleticism and versatility," Henare said. "That's another guy who's new to the group, new to the league and growing in confidence."

Even after dropping three of their first five games, that confidence must be starting to spread throughout the Breakers roster.

As Abercrombie noted, injuries meant the full group was never together during the pre-season, leaving the Breakers to learn Henare's system and learn one another's strengths on the fly.

"It's a work in progress," said Abercrombie. "We're building now, and we're starting to see some of that hard work and some of that stuff we're doing in practice show up during the games. It's just about continuing that now, leaving that as the benchmark and continuing to get better."

- NZ Herald

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