Lemanis full of praise for his Breakers team

02:17, Apr 25 2012
Breakers cheerleaders
Breakers cheerleaders
Breakers cheerleaders
Breakers cheerleaders
Breakers cheerleaders
Breakers cheerleaders
Breakers cheerleaders
Breakers cheerleaders
Breakers cheerleaders
Breakers cheerleaders
Breakers cheerleaders
Breakers cheerleaders
Breakers cheerleaders
Breakers cheerleaders
Breakers cheerleaders
Breakers cheerleaders
Breakers cheerleaders
Breakers cheerleaders
Breakers cheerleaders
Breakers cheerleaders

New Zealand Breakers coach Andrej Lemanis stopped short of tagging this second ANBL title any more special than last year's, but his words spoke volumes for an achievement that will stand the test of time.

That the Breakers were able to overcome the off-season departure of the league's best player - Tall Black superstar Kirk Penney - and return to emerge triumphant in one of the great grand finals ever clearly meant a lot to this special coach.

Lemanis spoke of this Breakers team "emerging from the shadow" of last year's trail-blazing championship side, and of "forging their own identity" and when he said the words, the pride was writ large on his face.

Mika Vukona
Mika Vukona of the Breakers clears the ball under pressure during their round one clash with the Wollongong Hawks.
Breakers
Joevan Catron of the Hawks drives to the basket under pressure from Gary Wilkinson of the Breakers during their round one NBL match.
Breakers
Gary Wilkinson of the Breakers takes a shot on goal under pressure from Larry Davidson of the Hawks during their round one NBL match.
Breakers
CJ Bruton of the Breakers shoots during the round one NBL match against the Gold Coast Blaze.
Breakers
Mike English of the Blaze shoots during their round one NBL match against the New Zealand Breakers.
Tom Abercrombie
Breakers forward Tom Abercrombie throws down as easy dunk during the first quarter against the Sydney Kings at Vector Arena.
Breakers huddle
Coach Andrej Lemanis talks to his team during a first half timeout.
CJ Bruton
Guard CJ Bruton waves to the Vector Arena crowd as the Breakers leave the court after warm-ups.
BJ Anthony
Breakers forward BJ Anthony hustles after a loose rebound.
Tom Abercrombie
Breaker Tom Abercrombie tries to drive by Kings guard Luke Cooper.
Dillon Boucher
Breakers forward Dillon Boucher applauds from the bench.
Gary Wilkinson
Big man Gary Wilkinson exorts the Vector Arena crowd to cheer.
Cedric Jackson
Breakers guard Cedric Jackson tangles with Sydney's Luke Martin going for a loose ball.
Alex Pledger
Out in the open, Alex Pledger drives to the hoop, being blocked by the rim on a one-handed dunk.
Breakers fans
In a New Zealand basketball record crowd 6383 filled Vector Arena to watch the Breakers and Kings.
Tom Abercrombie
Breakers guard Cedric Jackson in action, defended by Nathan Crosswell during NZ Breakers v Adelaide 36ers basketball match at the North Shore Events Centre.
Tom Abercrombie
Breakers forward Tom Abercrombie in action.
Tom Abercrombie
Breakers guard Cedric Jackson in action.
Tom Abercrombie
Breakers guard Cedric Jackson in action.
Tom Abercrombie
Breakers forward Dillon Boucher in action.
Breakers
Breakers guard CJ Bruton shoots a three pointer against the Wollongong Hawks at North Shore Events Centre.
Breakers
Breakers player Tom Abercrombie looks to get past Hawks forward Oscar Forman.
Breakers
Breakers guard Cedric Jackson tussles for the ball against Glen Saville (left) and Dave Gruber of the Hawks.
Breakers
Breakers forward BJ Anthony and Hawks forward Dave Gruber scramble for the ball.
Breakers
Breakers Forward Gary Wilkinson fires up after colliding with Hawks player Glen Saville on the way to the hoop.
Tom Abercrombie
Tom Abercrombie wipes sweat from his face.
Tom Abercrombie
Tom Abercrombie soars over Townsville's Michael Cedar to block his shot.
Andrej Lemanis
Breakers coach Andrej Lemanis appeals to the referees for a call.
Breakers coach clipboard
Andrej Lemanis draws a Breakers play during a timeout.
Gary Wilkinson
A beaten-up Gary Wilkinson acknowledges the Vector Arena crowd.
Breakers
Breakers guard Cedric Jackson gets caught by Tigers centre Tim Lang.
Breakers
Breakers coach Andrej Lemanis gets his message across against the Melbourne Tigers.
Breakers
Breakers guard Cedric Jackson looks for a way through the Tigers defence.
Breakers
Breakers forward Gary Wilkinson marks Tigers player Cameron Tragardh.
Breakers
Breakers guard Thomas Abercrombie completes an impressive slam dunk against the Melbourne Tigers.
Breakers
Breakers Mika Vukona in action against the Gold Coast Blaze.
Breakers
Breakers Cedric Jackson is marked by Blaze's Mark Worthington.
Breakers
Blaze's Anthony Petrie is ejected from the match.
Breakers
Both teams erupt into an all out brawl.
Breakers
Tom Abercrombie of the Breakers under pressure from Chris Warren of the 36ers.
Breakers
Cedric Jackson of the Breakers goes for the basket against the Adelaide 36ers.
Breakers
Diamon Simpson (L) and Daniel Johnson (R) of the 36ers competes with Dillon Boucher (C) and Tom Abercrombie of the Breakers.
Breakers
Mika Vukona of the Breakers competes with Diamon Simpson of the 36ers.
Breakers
Gary Wilkinson of the Breakers reaches for the basket against the Adelaide 36ers.
Breakers gallery
Breakers cheerleaders in action in the NZ Breakers & Cairns Taipans match at Auckland's North Shore Events Centre.
Breakers gallery
Breakers guard Cedric Jackson slams a basket against the Cairns Taipans.
Breakers gallery
Breakers forward Gary Wilkinson slams in the face of Cairns Taipans guard Andrew Warren.
Breakers gallery
Breakers guard Thomas Abercrombie climbs high against the Cairns Taipans.
Breakers gallery
Breakers coach Andrej Lemanis during a timeout against the Cairns Taipans.
Breakers Gallery
Cedric Jackson drives to the basket during the Breakers game against the Perth Wildcats.
Breakers Gallery
Jesse Wagstaff of the the Wildcats and Breakers' Benny Anthony Jnr. compete for the ball.
Breakers Gallery
Tom Abercrombie of the Breakers drives past Ayinde Ubaka of the Melbourne Tigers.
Breakers Gallery
CJ Bruton goes up for the lay-up.
Breakers Gallery
Cam Tragardh of the Melbourne Tigers tries to get past the Breakers' Alex Pledger.
Breakers Gallery
Breakers forward Thomas Abercrombie hangs off the hoop against the Adelaide 36ers.
Breakers Gallery
Breakers centre Alex Pledger wrestles the ball from Adelaide centre Wade Helliwell.
Breakers Gallery
Breakers forward Dillon Boucher puts up a shot against the Adelaide 36ers.
Breakers Gallery
Breakers guard Cedric Jackson backs in on Adelaide forward Diamon Simpson.
Breakers Gallery
Breakers forward Dillon Boucher beats Adelaide guard Darren Ng to the loose ball.
Breakers Gallery
Breakers guard CJ Bruton drives base-line against the Adelaide 36ers.
Breakers Gallery
Breakers forward Mika Vukona helps up guard Cedric Jackson against the Melbourne Tigers.
Breakers Gallery
Breakers centre Gary Wilkinson shoots against the Melbourne Tigers.
Breakers Gallery
Breakers forward Thomas Abercrombie flies at the basket against the Melbourne Tigers.
Breakers v Perth, Feb 2, Auckland
Leon Henry shows his emotion after Breakers team-mate Cedric Jackson sunk a buzzer-beating shot against the Perth Wildcats.
Breakers v Perth, Feb 2, Auckland
Breakers centre Alex Pledger grasps possession during the 73-67 win over the Perth Wildcats in Auckland.
Breakers v Perth, Feb 2, Auckland
The North Shore Events Centre crowd gets behind the Breakers during their top-of-the-table defeat of the Perth Wildcats.
Breakers v Perth, Feb 2, Auckland
Breakers guard Daryl Corletto scoots past his Perth Wildcats defender.
CJ Bruton
CJ Bruton fights for posession during the Breakers clash with Wollongong at the NSEC.
Andrej Lemanis
A bemused Andrej Lemanis jokingly applauds the referee after a foul is called on Mika Vukona.
Tom Abercrombie
Tom Abercrombie rises above Glen Saville of the Wollongong Hawks.
Dillon Boucher
Dillon Boucher tussles for position during the Breakers win over the Wollongong Hawks.
Cedric Jackson
Breakers point guard Cedric Jackson finished with 17 points and seven assists as the Breakers rolled by the 36ers 91-76 in Adelaide.
Breakers v Adelaide
Cedric Jackson of the Breakers goes for the basket against the Adelaide 36ers.
Breakers v Adelaide
CJ Bruton of the Breakers surges forward against the Adelaide 36ers.
Breakers v Adelaide
Dillon Boucher of the Breakers celebrates after the match against the Adelaide 36ers.
Breakers v Adelaide
Gary Wilkinson of the Breakers wins the ball against the Adelaide 36ers.
Breakers v Gold Coast
Breakers centre Gary Wilkinson scores against Gold Coast Blaze.
Breakers v Gold Coast
Breakers guard CJ Bruton pushes off Gold Coast Blaze point guard Jason Cadee.
Breakers v Gold Coast
Breakers forward Thomas Abercrombie drives on Gold Coast Blaze centre Will Hudson.
Breakers v Gold Coast
Breakers forward Leon Henry in action against Gold Coast Blaze.
Breakers v Gold Coast
Breakers coach Andrej Lemanis during the match against Gold Coast Blaze.
Breakers v Gold Coast
The teams are seperated by the ref after an unsportsman foul against Gold Coast Blaze forward Stephen Hoare.
Breakers Gallery
Alex Pledger (right) of the Breakers contests for the ball with Elvin Mims of the Townsville Crocodiles.
Breakers Gallery
Peter Crawford (centre) of the Crocodiles looks to get past Dillon Boucher (right) and Tom Abercrombie of the Breakers.
Breakers Gallery
Gary Wilkinson of the Breakers beats Ben Allen of the Crocodiles to the rebound.
Breakers Gallery
Jason Cadee of the Blaze passes against the New Zealand Breakers at the Gold Coast Convention Centre.
Breakers Gallery
Leon Henry of the Breakers in action against the Gold Coast Blaze.
Breakers Gallery
Jason Cadee of the Blaze shoots during their match against the Breakers at the Gold Coast Convention Centre.
Breakers Gallery
Morgan Natanahira of the Breakers shoots against of the Blaze at the Gold Coast Convention Centre.
Breakers Gallery
Dillion Boucher of the Breakers in action against the Blaze.

They became just the sixth team in history to claim back-to-back titles.

"I'm just really proud of the group for their ability to overcome all those challenges," said Lemanis after his team defeated the Perth Wildcats 79-73 in front of 9258 joyous fans at Vector Arena last night.

"Kirk's a great player, no doubt he's one of the premier players in the league when he plays here. But when we lost him there was a feeling from outside the group that was going to be the end of the Breakers.

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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.

"But there was a great resolve within the group. All last year we understood we needed everybody, and so we understood if we lose Kirk that's OK, we can replace him because we've still got a lot of the other parts.

"This year we continued to show if we play as a team, believe in each other and put in the work we can continue to succeed.

"It was a fun experience seeing this team grow and gain its own identity and getting out of the shadow of last year. This group had to establish itself again and find its own identity and get out of that shadow."

They certainly did that, thanks in no small part to finals MVP CJ Bruton who at the ripe old age of 36, and now with a championship ring for every finger, described this as a special moment in his career.

"I told my dad (NBL hall of famer Cal Bruton) I wanted to do something special, and I felt like coming to New Zealand I would get the chance to help New Zealand basketball," said Bruton whose 16 points included two three-pointers in the final two minutes that clinched victory..

"To come here and play at the North Shore Events Centre and then turn round and be part of this, coming to play at Vector in front of  9200 fans in a grand final against the team my father helped to a championship, and I played for in my first year, I couldn't think of anything more special than that."

American big man Gary Wilkinson, who led the Breakers with 23 points in his second straight standout display, said he just played as hard as he could because his team needed him to.

I love the challenge," said the starting centre whom the team may struggle to re-sign for next year as they grow Alex Pledger's role. "It pushes me to be better, it pushes me to rise to my best.

"One thing I really focused on was what do I need to do for my team, what is it I could do best to help my team. I just tried to do those things ... to win this series it was going to take everything that everyone had."

Lemanis said he would love to re-sign Wilkinson and point guard Cedric Jackson after they both played huge roles in this championship.

But he admitted circumstances made that problematic. Jackson has NBA ambitions he will be pursuing, and he confirmed Wilkinson would have to accept a different role if he came back.

"We'll sit down with Gary and explain the role we now have available. If he wants that role absolutely he can have it."

It would be a shame to break up this special team, but as the Breakers have already shown, they have a durability that can overcome even the greatest of defections.

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