NZ Breakers' lacklustre season finally over

CJ Bruton makes a no-look, behind-the-back pass against the Cairns Taipans in his 179th, and last, appearance in a Breakers singlet.
CJ Bruton makes a no-look, behind-the-back pass against the Cairns Taipans in his 179th, and last, appearance in a Breakers singlet.

Oh dear. CJ Bruton deserved so much better than this dud note on which to end his New Zealand Breakers career. So much better.

But the reality is a 95-83 defeat to the Cairns Taipans in front of a brilliant final night crowd of 8000 at Vector Arena summed up this entire forgettable season in a 40-minute snapshot.

The Breakers, simply, couldn’t even get this right, Bruton farewelled not with the victory – and celebration -- he deserved, but another lacklustre performance that saw the Taipans secure their first win in Auckland since October of 2008.

The Snakes shot the lights out after halftime – that needs to be acknowledged – but it was sad to see this once proud Breakers outfit surrender so meekly. They had no ability to put the clamps on the Cairns shooters when things got rolling, and saw yet another game slip away from them.

The Breakers were thumped 49-28 in the second half by the men from North Queensland, and it was sad to see them finish on such a discordant note. When their shots stopped falling after the break, their whole game fell apart.

With a final record of 11-17 – their first losing season since 2006-07 – it’s been a forgettable campaign, and an end to the golden weather for a franchise that had reeled in three straight championships hitherto playing a pretty exhilarating brand of hoops.

It was so disappointing for Bruton who made his 179th, and final, appearance in a Breakers singlet. After revelling in the role as Mr Clutch through all three titles, and helping transform a middling club into a dominant one with his infectious professionalism, drive and winning personality, the club’s growing legion of fans were not going to let this occasion pass without appropriate fanfare.

Unfortunately their team could just not deliver the performance the six-year Breaker, and 17-season NBL legend, deserved, with playoff hopes already well and truly extinguished.

The Breakers played all their quality hoops in the first half, en route to a 55-46 advantage. After that it was pretty turgid fare. Gary Wilkinson topped the scoring with 16 points to go with eight rebounds, Mika Vukona had a 13-point/10-rebound double-double, Corey Webster chipped in with 13 points, Tom Abercrombie 12 and the man of the hour 11 – including two late triples that briefly roused hopes of a comeback.

The heroes were all on the Taipans side. Alex Loughton produced a quality display to tally 24 points (8/17 FG) and 10 rebounds, while sharpshooter Cameron Gliddon added 23 points on six-of-12 from the floor and three-of-six from deep. Demetri McCamey was also all class in his 18 points, including three triples.

The Breakers had looked well on track when they led by six (32-26) after the first quarter, and by nine (55-46) at the half.

But the Taipans made their move in the third quarter, and on CJ’s night, his team had no answer when the squeeze came on. It was all so sad, but so typical of this frustrating, disappointing season.


Cairns Taipans 95 (Alex Loughton 24, Cameron Gliddon 23,  Demetri McCamey 18, Matt Burston 12), NZ Breakers 83 (Gary Wilkinson 16, Corey Webster 13, Mika Vukona 13, Tom Abercrombie 12, CJ Bruton 11). 1Q: 26-32; HT: 46-55; 3Q: 72-66.

Fairfax Media