Back-to-back NZ Breakers silence doubters

16:00, Dec 25 2012
Breakers v Townsville Crocodiles
Breakers guard Cedric Jackson passes under pressure from Townsville Crocs centre Luke Schenscher.
Breakers v Townsville Crocodiles
Breakers forward Dillon Boucher on the fast break chased by Townsville Crocs guard Michael Cedar.
Breakers v Townsville Crocodiles
Breakers forward Dillon Boucher battles with Townsville Crocs forward Peter Crawford.
Breakers v Townsville Crocodiles
Breakers forward Thomas Abercrombie charges into Townsville Crocs forward Todd Blanchfield.
Breakers v Townsville Crocodiles
Breakers guard Cedric Jackson scoots around Townsville Crocs point guard Eddie Gill.
Breakers v Townsville Crocodiles
High-fives for the Breakers in the NZ Breakers.
Breakers v Townsville Crocodiles
Breakers forward Dillon Boucher scoots around Townsville Crocs forward Jacob Holmes.
Breakers v Townsville Crocodiles
Breakers forward Thomas Abercrombie keeps the ball in play.
Breakers v Townsville Crocodiles
Breakers head coach Andrej Lemanis talks to his players.
Breakers v Crocodiles
Mika Vukona of the Breakers drives past Todd Blanchfield of the Crocodiles during game two.
Breakers v Crocodiles
Michael Cedar of the Crocodiles attempts a jump shot over Cedric Jackson of the Breakers during game two.
Breakers v Crocodiles
Dillon Boucher of the Breakers makes a lay-up during game two.
Breakers v Crocodiles
Dillon Boucher of the Breakers drives past Jacob Holmes of the Crocodiles during game two.
Breakers v Crocodiles
Russell Hinder of the Crocodiles looks dejected in game two of the NBL Finals series against the New Zealand Breakers.
Breakers v Crocodiles
Eddie Gill of the Crocodiles passes the ball past Tom Abercrombie of the Breakers during game two.
Breakers v Crocodiles
The Breakers celebrate after winning game two of the NBL Finals series against the Townsville Crocodiles.
Tom Abercrombie
The moment before Tom Abercrombie was taken out by Townsville's Peter Crawford on a breakaway dunk.
Tom Abercrombie
Tom Abercrombie is treated on the floor while team-mates go after the referee.
Tom Abercrombie
Tom Abercrombie lies on the court in agony after severely straining ligaments in his left ankle.
CJ Bruton
CJ Bruton raises his arms after a crucial fourth quarter three-pointer in the game three win.
Cedric Jackson
Cedric Jackson hits the hardwood to grab possession for the Breakers.
Breakers bench boys
MAKE OR BREAK: The Breakers are getting ready for a do-or-die match against Perth tonight.
Breakers gallery
Breakers centre Gary Wilkinson drives into Perth Wildcats centre Luke Nevill in game one of the ANBL finals series.
Breakers gallery
Alex Pledger of the Breakers battles with two Perth Wildcats players for the ball in game one of the ANBL finals series.
Breakers gallery
Leon Henry of the Breakers lays the ball up over Luke Nevill of the Perth Wildcats in game one of the ANBL finals series.
Breakers gallery
Breakers guard CJ Bruton on the ball.
Breakers Gallery
Dillon Boucher celebrates the Breakers win over Perth Wildcats in game one of the ANBL finals series.
Gary Wilkinson
Gary Wilkinson gets the Breakers fired-up pre-game.
Cedric Jackson
Cedric Jackson gets amongst the front-row fans after making a basket and being fouled.
Tom Abercrombie
Tom Abercrombie gingerly runs onto the court during player intros.
Leon Henry
Small forward Leon Henry defends Perth's Cameron Tovey.
Mika Vukona
Mika Vukona looks to score down low under pressure from Luke Nevill.
NZ Breakers
Breakers and Wildcats players get involved in an altercation.
NZ Breakers
Breakers playing discuss tactics during a break in play of game two of the ANBL finals series in Perth.
NZ Breakers
Breakers big man during game two of the ANBL finals series in Perth.
NZ Breakers
Breakers and Wildcats players get involved in an altercation.
NZ Breakers
Kevin Lisch of the Wildcats and Cedric Jackson of the Breakers contest for a loose ball during game two.
NZ Breakers
Leon Henry and Dillon Boucher of the Breakers look on from the bench during game two.
NZ Breakers
Shawn Redhage of the Wildcats celebrates with supporters at the end of the game during game two.
NZ Breakers
Leon Henry of the Breakers lays-up against Matt Knight of the Wildcats during game two.
Breakers
The crowd cheers as the Breakers take to the court during the third and deciding game of the ANBL finals series against the Perth Wildcats.
Breakers
Breakers' forward Mika Vukona avoids the attention of Perth Wildcats' forward Shawn Redhage.
Breakers
Breakers' guard CJ Bruton goes past Perth Wildcats' point guard Brad Robbins.
Breakers gallery
Breakers' guard Cedric Jackson takes the ball to the hoop in game three of ANBL finals series against the Perth Wildcats.
Breakers gallery
Breakers' Alex Pledger climbs high for a dunk.
Breakers gallery
The New Zealand Breakers and the Perth Wildcats get involved in an altercation in game three of the ANBL finals series in Auckland.
Andrej Lemanis gallery
New Zealand Breakers' coach Andrej Lemanis with the ANBL championship trophy.
Andrej Lemanis gallery
The New Zealand Breakers' celebrate their victory in the ANBL finals series.
Andrej Lemanis gallery
New Zealand Breakers' Dillon Boucher participates in the championship-winning tradition of cutting down the nets.
CJ Bruton
CJ Bruton of the Breakers ducks through the arms of Matt Knight and Brad Robbins of the Perth Wildcats.
CJ Bruton
CJ Bruton gets the crowd going after hitting a three pointer in the grand finals decider.
Carter, Kaino
Dan Carter and Jerome Kaino show their support for the NZ Breakers.
Dillon Boucher
Dillon Boucher jumps for joy as the Breakers win their second straight Australian NBL title.
Cedric Jackson
Cedric Jackson delivers the ball to centre Gary Wilkinson as Perth's Shawn Redhage attempts a block.
Alex Pledger
Alex Pledger shows off his championship ring.
Rio Bruton
Rio Bruton shows his dad is number one after CJ collected the grand finals MVP award.
Tom Abercrombie
Tom Abercrombie holds the championship trophy aloft.

Written off across the Tasman, the New Zealand Breakers silenced their detractors, by winning a second consecutive Australian National Basketball League title.

With Tall Blacks' star and potent scorer Kirk Penney departing for Europe and the retirement of club legend Paul Henare many doubted whether the Breakers could defend their silverware before the season tipped off.

The Breakers quickly showed they could adjust to life without Penney, winning seven of their first 10 games. New American point guard Cedric Jackson created an instant impression, while Melbourne Tigers reject Daryl Corletto proved to be an excellent off-season pick-up with his three-point precision.

The Breakers secured home-court advantage for the finals after finishing top of the standings at the end of the regular season with a 21-7 record.

Their semi-final series against the Townsville Crocodiles got off to a disastrous start when they suffered a 17-point blowout loss in the opening game at Auckland's Vector Arena.

With their season on the line, the Breakers travelled to North Queensland trying to stave off elimination.

In what turned out to be a season-defining performance, the Breakers bounced back to level the series with a hard-fought 94-83 win.

The Breakers managed to close out the semi-final series back at home, but the end of the game was marred by a serious ankle injury to Thomas Abercrombie. The athletic swingman soared to the hoop for a dunk when he was fouled hard by the Crocodiles' Pete Crawford, which sparked a heated response from both camps.

The Breakers' grand final series against the Perth Wildcats was an absolute classic, with all three games decided late in the contest.

New Zealand overcame the loss of the injured Abercrombie in game one to win an overtime thriller 104-98 in Auckland. It was a see-saw affair with Perth rallying back from a 15-point halftime deficit to lead by six points in the dying stages of the game. The Breakers made the crucial plays when it mattered to send the game into overtime and snatch the win.

They should have won the title in Perth, with CJ Bruton's potential game-winner blocked by Shawn Redhage on the final possession of the game.

The decider was played in front of a New Zealand basketball record crowd of 9258 fans at Vector Arena.

The game hung in the balance late in the fourth quarter, only for finals MVP Bruton to ensure the result with two huge three pointers. Abercrombie, who had returned from his injury in game two, also pulled off a critical block on Redhage, when Perth drew within two points. American imports Jackson and Gary Wilkinson, the tenacious Mika Vukona, and rising talent Alex Pledger also had pivotal showings in game three to propel the Breakers to victory.

Foundation Breaker Dillon Boucher said the second title meant more to the team because they showed they could deal with the pressure of expectation, while also quietening their critics.

"Proving to ourselves that we could do it back-to-back was very, very satisfying and rewarding," he said.

"It's really put basketball on the map in this country and it's made the Australians look at what we're doing and start to get a bit worried."

Boucher believed the professional attitude of the Breakers' organisation and strong family ethos was integral to their success.

"There's high expectations, not only on the court, but also off the court ... We're striving for excellence in whatever we do."

It was a disappointing year on the international stage, for the Tall Black men and Tall Fern women, who were unable to book a place at the London Olympics, through their respective qualifying tournaments.

Weakened by the absence of the injured Penney and Abercrombie, it was always going to be an uphill battle for the Tall Blacks to progress.

In the New Zealand NBL, the Auckland Pirates ended the Wellington Saints' three-peat aspirations with a 89-83 victory in the final. Manawatu's Nick Horvath was named Most Valuable Player of the league, after averaging 20 points and 15 rebounds per game. The Nelson Sparks took out the women's basketball championship, easing to a 61-40 final win over Waitakere West Auckland.

A GOOD YEAR FOR:

The Breakers and Cedric Jackson. Breakers prove inaugural Australian NBL title in previous season was no fluke by going back-to-back. Jackson justifies his reputation as the finest American import to play for the team in their nine year existence.

A BAD YEAR FOR:

The Tall Blacks and Tall Ferns. Neither side features at the London Olympics after failing to progress from their respective qualifying tournaments.

CRYSTAL BALL GAZING:

The Perth Wildcats gain revenge on the Breakers, winning a dramatic Australian NBL grand final series 2-1. Jackson deservedly gets his second chance in the NBA with the freshly-coined New Orleans Pelicans. The star-studded Wellington Saints claim their third New Zealand NBL title in four years.

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Breakers
The Breakers met with fans to celebrate their championship win.
Breakers
The Breakers met with fans to celebrate their championship win.
Breakers
The Breakers met with fans to celebrate their championship win.
Breakers
The Breakers met with fans to celebrate their championship win.
Breakers
The Breakers met with fans to celebrate their championship win.
Breakers
The Breakers met with fans to celebrate their championship win.
Breakers
The Breakers met with fans to celebrate their championship win.
Breakers win back-to-back titles
CHAMPIONS AGAIN: Dillon Boucher (left) and CJ Bruton hold the Australian NBL trophy aloft after their title repeat.

Fairfax Media