Breakers topple American collegians Athletes in Action
The New Zealand Breakers have opened preparations for the looming Australian NBL season with a solid 90-81 win over the touring Athletes in Action side in Rotorua.
The Breakers broke a tight game open with a 24-11 third quarter to take a 17-point lead into the final term against the composite lineup of American collegiate players.
Usual suspects Kirk Penney, who had a game-high 28 points, and Tony Ronaldson, with 20, led the way offensively for the Breakers in their first hitout of the new pre-season.
But there were also pleasing contributions from returned import Rick Rickert, who had 15 points and 14 rebounds, youngster Corey Webster, who had nine points off the bench, and big Tall Black Alex Pledger who snared seven rebounds in just 10 minutes off the pine.
Point guard CJ Bruton and forwards Dillon Boucher and Thomas Abercrombie did not play as they work through their respective ailments, while Boomers forward Oscar Forman logged limited minutes after being a late arrival from his recent commitments in South America. The Breakers also drafted in guard Hayden Allen and forward BJ Anthony to make up numbers.
The numbers were solid from the Kiwi club. They shot 54 percent from the floor, and 45 percent beyond the arc, won the rebounding battle 47-43, but coughed up 14 offensive boards and committed 17 turnovers, which was a worrying number in a 40-minute game.
Breakers coach Andrej Lemanis was pleased with a first-up win against a competitive touring side, even if turnovers and some sporadic defensive effort still left him a little frustrated.
"It was a pleasing first run, particularly given we've only been together for less than a week," Lemanis told Stuff.co.nz.
"The Tall Blacks guys have only been back a couple of days, so we were always going to be a little disjointed, particularly against An AIA side who did a good job of being aggressive and disruptive on defence.
"Considering all that, it was a pleasing performance, and the core group showed the benefits of their previous time together with a good understanding, and some good ball movement and execution.
"And I was pleased with what the young guys were able to add. They showed they'll fit into our culture of moving the ball, setting screens and generally helping to make their team-mates better. Defensively, as is traditional with the Breakers, we still have some ways to go."
The match also had one other major spinoff from Lemanis' perspective.
"The reception we had in Rotorua was sensational. We had 500 kids through a coaching clinic, over 2000 at the game and it was a really positive experience for basketball in the regions.
"They enjoyed having us and it was good for us to get out and promote the game and the Breakers brand around the country."
The Breakers will meet the AIA side again tonight in Napier and then on Saturday in Porirua to complete the tour.
NZ Breakers 90 (Kirk Penney 28, Tony Ronaldson 20, Rick Rickert 15), Athletes in Action 81 (Bryan Davies 19, BJ Holmes 18). 1q: 24-24; ht: 47-43; 3q: 71-54