Advantage Breakers in GF series
ONE down, one more to go.
The Breakers have one hand on the ANBL trophy after thrashing the Cairns Taipans in the opening match of the grand final series on the North Shore last night.
Kirk Penney led the way with 25 points in a match that began as a nervy affair but ended as a walk in the park. So dominant were the Breakers that coach Andrej Lemanis was even able to clear his bench late in the fourth quarter.
Game one may have been a blowout but the Breakers are expecting tougher resistance in Cairns on Sunday.
"We haven't achieved anything yet," point guard Paul Henare said. "The talk amongst the group right now is 'hey, don't take your foot off the pedal, there is no time to exhale'.
"We have still got a tough, tough task in front of us trying to close it out in Cairns."
Should they do so, the retiring Henare will have played his last game on his home court. It's a scenario he'd happily embrace.
"We'd love to do it anywhere. We have done half the job. Cairns are a hell of a basketball team. I don't think they showed what they are all about [last night]. We expect a lot more from them [in Cairns]. They seem to grow an extra arm and leg when they play on their home court.
"But we are ready. We can feel we are so close. We've got one more game to get it and you can guarantee we are going to be throwing every single thing at it," Henare said last night.
Finals are often ugly affairs but the first quarter last night took that concept to new heights. It was hideous. Both sides turned in a horror shooting display. The Breakers landed just four of their 16 field goal attempts for the quarter. The Taipans were even worse, hitting just 2/14.
An early 5-0 foul count in their favour helped the Taipans compile an 11-5 lead, with nine of those points coming from the free thrown line.
But when a run of calls swung back the Breakers' way the score quickly levelled and it was the home side that led 17-14 after closing the quarter with a 6-0 run.
That streak continued in the second spell, with the Breakers scoring the first 11 points to complete a 17-0 run.
Tom Abercrombie converted a four-point play after he was fouled while drilling a shot from beyond the arc as the Breakers' offence found some serious rhythm.
By midway through the second quarter the lead had grown to 19. Classy Cairns point guard Ayinde Ubaka was playing near enough a lone hand but he did just enough to keep the Taipans in it, notching 10 points for the half to help his side close the gap to 14 at the break.
The Taipans would have been hoping for a let up to allow them back into the match in the third quarter, but this Breakers team has absorbed its lessons this season.
Penney streaked to the basket and drew a foul while completing his lay-up on the opening possession of the half, and Gary Wilkinson (15 points) then converted a nice Penney assist as the Breakers immediately put the foot back on the throat.
The second half became an exhibition, with Penney lighting up from three-point range and Alex Pledger dominating in the paint to crush the Taipans into the NSEC floorboards. Midway through the quarter the lead was a staggering 31 points.
It took a classic Phill Jones outburst of the type Breakers fans used to savour to save the Taipans from complete humiliation. The Tall Blacks veteran nailed three consecutive threes in an 11-point burst to cut the gap to 18 at three-quarter time, but not even Jones could engineer the type of miracle the Taipans needed to get back into match.
Breakers 85 (Kirk Penney 25, Gary Wilkinson 15, Alex Pledger 13).
Cairns Taipans 67 (Ian Crosswhite 15, Phill Jones 14) Halftime: 41-27.