Breakers secure first ANBL championship

12:40, May 01 2011
Breakers v Taipans
Alex Pledger of the Breakers takes a shot under pressure from Ian Crosswhite of the Taipans.
Breakers v Taipans
Paul Henare of the Breakers and Ronald Dorsey of the Taipans miss the ball.
Breakers v Taipans
Breakers forward Gary Wilkinson gets excited in game one of the NBL grand final series between the NZ Breakers & the Cairns Taipans.
Breakers v Taipans
Breakers forward Thomas Abercrombie pulls up for a three pointer over Cairns Taipans centre Ian Crosswhite in game one.
Breakers v Taipans
Breakers forward Gary Wilkinson shoots over Cairns Taipans forward Dusty Rychart in game one.
Breakers v Taipans
Breakers forward Mika Vukona shoots in game one of the NBL grand final series against the Cairns Taipans.
Breakers v Taipans
Breakers forward Gary Wilkinson fans in game one of the NBL grand final series between the NZ Breakers & the Cairns Taipans.
Breakers v Taipans
Breakers forward Dillon Boucher guards Cairns Taipans guard Lindsay Tait in game one.
Breakers v Taipans
Breakers guard Kevin Braswell shoots in game one of the NBL grand final series against the Cairns Taipans.
Breakers v Taipans
Breakers forward Dillon Boucher contests a rebound with Cairns Taipans forward Dusty Rychart in game one.
Breakers v Taipans
Breakers guard Paul Henare shoots in game one of the NBL grand final series against the Cairns Taipans.
Breakers v Taipans
Gary Wilkinson shoots over Cairns Taipans forward Dusty Rychart in game one.
Breakers v Taipans
Breakers guard Kirk Penney in action in game one of the NBL grand final series against the Cairns Taipans.
Kevin Braswell
Breakers guard Kevin Braswell celebrates one of his late threes in the first overtime period.
Lindsay Tait
Cairns Taipans and Tall Blacks guard Lindsay Tait drives by Kevin Braswell.
Kirk Penney and Gary Wilkinson
Dejected figures, Kirk Penney and Gary Wilkinson walks off the court.
Kirk Penney
Kirk Penney delivers a forearm to Daniel Dillon's throat as he drives past him.
Kirk Penney
Breakers star Kirk Penney cuts between two Cairns Taipans for a lay-up late in the game.
Ayinde Ubaka
Ayinde Ubaka leads the celebrations in the Cairns Taipans huddle after the game two win.
Ayinde Ubaka
Taipans import Ayinde Ubaka gets the up-close fan experience during celebrations.
Dillon Boucher, Alex Pledger, Corey Webster
Stunned Breakers subs Dillon Boucher, Alex Pledger and Corey Webster watch on as the Taipans take game two.
CJ Bruton
CJ Bruton, who hit a three to send the game into the first overtime, contemplates what could have been.
Paul Henare
The urgency shows on the face of Breakers point guard Paul Henare as he signals a play.
Alex Loughton
Cairns Taipans forward Alex Loughton pumps his fist to the crowd as he walks off the court.
Cairns Taipans fans
Clad in Taipans orange, 5200 fans packed the Cairns Convention Centre for game two.
Ayinde Ubaka and Gary Wilkinson
Breakers centre Gary Wilkinson hip-checks Cairns Taipans import Ayinde Ubaka.
Breakers
The Breakers hit the court at the start of their finals game against the Taipans at the North Harbour Events Centre.
Breakers
CJ Bruton makes a break past Daniel Dillon during the Breakers vs Taipans final in Cairns.
Breakers
Paul Henare leaps into the air during his game against the Cairns Taipans.
Breakers
Tom Abercrombie takes a shot during the Taipans vs Breakers game in Cairns.
Breakers
Cairns Taipans centre Ian Crosswhite holds off Breakers forward Mika Vukona in game 3 of the NBL Grand Final basketball series between the NZ Breakers & the Cairns Taipans at the North Shore Events Centre in Auckland on Friday night.
Breakers
Alex Pledger of the Breakers during his match against the Cairns Taipans.
NUMBER ONE: The Breakers celebrate winning the Australian NBL grand final series against the Cairns Taipans.
NUMBER ONE: The Breakers celebrate winning the Australian NBL grand final series against the Cairns Taipans.
The Breakers celebrate the victory in game 3 of the NBL Grand Final basketball series.
The Breakers celebrate winning the Australian NBL grand final series against the Cairns Taipans.
Breakers gallery
The Breakers celebrate winning the Australian NBL grand final series against the Cairns Taipans.
Breakers
Breakers guard Kirk Penney celebrates in game 3 of the NBL grand final basketball series.
The Breakers celebrate the victory in game 3 of the NBL Grand Final basketball series.
The Breakers celebrate winning the Australian NBL grand final series against the Cairns Taipans.
Breakers foundation player Paul Henare  celebrates victory over the Cairns Taipans.
Breakers foundation player Paul Henare celebrates victory over the Cairns Taipans.
Breakers parade
Breakers Coach Andrej Lemanis speaks to the crowd at Aotea Square at the parade for the NZ Breakers.
Breakers parade
New Zealand Breakers coach Andrej Lemanis gives the crowd at Aotea square two thumbs up at the NZ Breakers parade.
Breakers parade
Hugh Spottswodes high fives Alex Pledger at the NZ Breakders parade on Queen Street.
Breakers parade
The New Zealand Breakers take part in a parade along Auckland's Queen Street in May.

The Breakers are the champions of Australia - and the toast of New Zealand.

The New Zealand club last night defeated the Cairns Taipans 71-53 in a brilliantly one-sided deciding game three of the Australian NBL grand finals, and wrote themselves into Kiwi sporting history.

In front of a sell-out crowd of 4200 at a frenzied North Shore Events Centre, the Breakers mixed some fabulous defence with more than enough offence to leave the Taipans in their dust as they cruised to their second convincing home victory of this series.

Breakers
RUNNING FROM RUGBY: The Breakers will begin their bid for back-to-back ANBL titles in October with four successive games on the road to avoid a clash with the Rugby World Cup.

And didn't they celebrate it at the final buzzer as eight years of toil, disappointment, patient building and a false start or two finally turned into the prized championship.

At the end the players leapt into each other's arms and celebrated one of the special moments in New Zealand sport.

A Kiwi team - made up of nine New Zealanders, two international imports and a lone Aussie - has gone into an Australian league and beaten them in their backyard, in their competition, under their terms.

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It does not get any sweeter than this.

The Cairns outfit simply could not handle the lock-down Breakers defence and struggled to put enough points on the board to stay in the race against a Breakers side who spread the scoring load splendidly and eased to a no-sweat victory after halftime.

It was fitting, too, that it was such a team effort on the night of nights for this club.

Perth coach Rob Beveridge had labelled them a one-man team during the semifinal series. Rubbish.

Last night CJ Bruton - making his own slice of history by claiming his fourth title with his third club - led the scoring with 14 points (5/10 FG) that included four three-pointers, two of which were back-to-back fourth-quarter daggers as the Breakers put the issue beyond doubt.

Import Gary Wilkinson added 13 points and six rebounds, while Kirk Penney added 11 points (3/10 FG) and five boards to cancel out his five turnovers.

But the contributions came right down the line-up for the Kiwis.

Mika Vukona was painfully shy of a double-double with nine points and 10 big boards, Alex Pledger had nine points and six rebounds off the bench and Thomas Abercrombie weighed in with seven points, 10 rebounds and four steals, not to mention some of the best defence seen in the league this year.

Paul Henare bowed out in his 250th game in perfect fashion.

The foundation player now has that ring he can take into his retirement, and he played his part with four points, four assists and two steals.

Henare's energy from the off set the tone for his side.

The Breakers made history in so many ways as they lifted aloft the trophy they call 'The Doc' last night - not only securing their first title in their eighth season in the NBL, but making the long-awaited breakthrough for a Kiwi team in an Aussie league.

Including the Warriors, Breakers, one-term Sirens, the three football clubs and a lone water polo season there have been 35 seasons of futility. Not any more.

The wait is finally over and the Breakers can now rightly be lauded as the first New Zealand club to crack the tough ask of crossing the Tasman and beating the Aussies in their own backyard.

But this has been a championship built slowly and steadily since owners Paul and Liz Blackwell took over the club six years ago.

Year by year they've added the pieces to the puzzle, till finally in 2010-11 they had the line-up not only to march through the regular season with the league's best record (22-6) but scrap their way through two tough, gruelling three-game playoff series.

Bruton became just the third player in league history to win titles with three clubs, while coach Andrej Lemanis - who deserves as much credit as anyone for this - is just the fourth person to win championships as both a player and coach, adding to the crown he lifted as a backup guard with the South East Melbourne Magic in 1992.

The Breakers made an electrifying start in front of their vociferous sell-out crowd, coming out with all the aggression to lead 11-2 inside four minutes.

 But then the Taipans settled and the home team's shooting, and ball security, fell off. A mere six points in the last 6:25 saw the Kiwis lead just 17-15 at the first intermission.

But with Vukona in to-the-rim mode early in the second period, and Abercrombie converting a three-point play off some excellent Braswell hustle, the Breakers sprung out by 11 (30-19).

Still they couldn't shake these sticky Snakes, and with Dusty Rychart (12 first-half points) keeping them in it with that solid mid-range game, the visitors had reduced the deficit to seven (30-37) by the major break.

The Breakers had played solidly rather than spectacularly through the first 20 minutes, shooting 43 percent from the floor (15/35 FG) and forcing the visitors into 13 turnovers, but never quite able to do enough to make a game-winning break.

However, when they extended their lead to 12 at the end of the third quarter they had one hand on the trophy. By knuckling down and keeping the Taipans to just 15 points in each of the first three periods, the New Zealanders were able to keep chipping away at the lead with their more reliable offensive game.

And then when the Taipans kept missing and Bruton nailed those back-to-back triples in the final quarter, the celebrations could begin. The lead was 21, and the rest was simply academic.

Abercrombie was named finals MVP at the post-game presentations, with the North Shore boy receiving a huge cheer from his home crowd as he stepped on to the podium to receive a deserved award.

Doesn't it sound great? The best team in Australian basketball is the New Zealand Breakers.

NZ Breakers 71 (CJ Bruton 14, Gary Wilkinson 13, Kirk Penney 11), Cairns Taipans 53 (Dusty Rychart 14). 1Q: 17-15; HT: 37-30; 3Q: 57-45.

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