From Murray McKinnon
The SKYCITY Breakers home court run of victories this season came to a crashing end at eight.The Illawarra Hawks were in the groove from the off with Kirk Penney and Kevin Lisch dropping three point bombs and Andrew Ogilvy tidying up in the paint to have the visitors out to a 26-9 lead inside the first six minutes of the game.
Corey Webster got a look in towards the end of the first quarter with a couple from beyond the arc but the Hawks went to the break ahead 34-21.
Tai Wesley gave the Breakers a lift at the start of the second period with a couple of three pointers and joined by Reubin Te Rangi, Everard Bartlett, Webster and Tom Abercrombie held the Hawks to their margin going to the half time with the score at 59-47.
Lisch and Penney hit it hard over the next ten minutes drawing Illawarra out to 88-69 going into the final quarter. Good runs by Cody Ellis and Jarrad Weeks gave the Hawks the winning formula rounding out with a 107-83 thrashing.
Penney finished with 27, Lisch 24 and Ogilvy 18. For the Breakers Webster was on 25, Wesley 20 and Abercrombie 12.
Kirk Penney was pleased to be back home playing against his old team and down played his involvement and success with 27 points.
“The big part for us is defence, you can look at the scoring and stuff but look where we’ve come early on in the year we were the mockery of the League, they can’t defend, they can’t rebound. I just think we’ve made great strides and that is what has opened it up offensively for us all, and then we get easy looks,” he said.
Despite being the opposition Penney still had plenty of support in the crowd.
“When we’ve got 20 tickets allocated to the team and I’ve got 18 of them, it probably means a lot to me to come and play and play well. I knew my family was there from my Mum to my cousins my nieces and nephews and whenever they’re there you want to go out and put on a good show for them, they want to enjoy it and playing for Bevo it’s not hard, except we kind of failed we got 75 shots and he wants us to get 80 shots but how fun is that as a player,” said Penney who received a round of applause from the crowd as he was subbed off with minutes remaining.
Lisch is also a key component on the court says Penney.
“He’s very talented, and he does an awesome job, he’s on the other wing with you so he takes so much pressure off you and if he’s in any late shot clock situations he’ll give a tremendous shot. If you’re guarding him your ankles better be loose.”
Age is no barrier to Penney who turned 35 on 23 November according to Beveridge.
“He’s a professional, age it’s a number, we always call him the old guy and stuff like that but he does a tremendous job. Because of the intensity that we play at, for him to do that just shows what great shape he actually is in.
Rob Beveridge coach of the Hawks said the trip to New Zealand was about adversity.
“We played to win (against Sydney) on Friday night, left at 7am from Wollongong, no food on the plane, no sleep, hydration was crap and we got in quite late so we could have used that as an excuse coming here to New Zealand where they’re 8-0 on their home court. So how are we going to handle the adversity that if we happen to get to the playoffs that’s what we have to do as backup two days later so we tried to do this as a test run, to see how we could handle it and I think (we passed) with flying colours, that was just amazing, a really amazing performance by our guys tonight,” he said.
“Penney and Lisch, made massive, massive plays and that’s why they’re the big MVP’s of the League. We’re starting to gel as a team, starting to understand who gets the shots when and obviously when you’ve got Kirk and Lisch and a big horse in the middle with Ogilvy we’re pretty tough to stop.”
“I believe it was our best performance of the season we spoke about that in the changing room that was our best, the way we weathered the storm, we didn’t fall in a hole we always knew they are going to come at us and they started nailing some threes and they brought it back a bit but then we executed so we’ve been in positions where if you want to call we’ve choked in the past against Perth, up by a good margin and losing the game. And we’ve learnt how to close that out now and tonight was definitely the best performance by us.”
When playing against a team with a large home crowd (6077) Beveridge said it is always good to silence them from the start.
“When you’ve got big crowds doesn’t matter where you are you’ve got to silence the crowds because when they get into it that just generates so much and they become bullet proof and these guys know that as well. We get our players to play as loose as we possibly can within the parameters we don’t want to be out of control and Kamikaze but they know there’s an expectation that if they’re open they have to shoot that ball and we made it as simple as that and it becomes a grind when you don’t make it which we’ve had those games, but tonight was having fun and that’s one of the big things with this group. It’s a group of tight players that back each other and have a go at each other for not shooting it. We’re playing some exciting fun basketball and they enjoy it,” he said.
Vickerman said the key to the Hawks was the great duo of Penney and Lisch.
“They showed why they’re two of the premier players in the league right now and two of the premier players in Europe and tonight we didn’t do a good enough job on them. We tried to make them make passes with mixed results on that one. They so good you’ve got to make sure that you can limit their catches and I thought they were good enough to make fairly easy catches and then make their decisions. There were so many tipped, loose balls and everything that they came up with tonight and that was the difference in the desperation that both teams showed tonight and they made their own luck tonight.
“We had a different strategy going into this game and we weren’t able to get that done for the first time this year. We’ve been able to make able to make adjustments on the fly and change our defence a little bit and tonight we didn’t have the answers and we threw some zone out there to just have a bit of a look at it. We pride ourselves on being the best man to man defensive team in the League and we’ll go back and review it and we’ll find a better way to get it done next time.”
Breakers Coach Dean Vickerman added that the stats from the game were a little bit flattering.
“We knew this team was going to challenge our defence, we’ve kind of prided our self on holding people to some of the lowest totals in the League and tonight I just didn’t think we started with the right intent, obviously the three ball is massive to them but to give up five in the first quarter and I didn’t think they were heavily contested I thought they were pretty solid looks for them and for us to come out that way and get on the back foot from the start and we were battling it from there,” he said.
It was a reality check for the Breakers and Vickerman said that there were some lessons to be learnt from the game.
“Their ability to use screens, to set screens, really some simple fundamental things that they do well to get open, right now we can take a bit of a lesson from some of the things they do with the way they use each other to get open shots.”
“We felt like we had a good home run playing well here. We haven’t played unbelievable basketball over the last few games, we’ve played in patches and you can’t do that against a good team like this one. They established a lead and were able to maintain it. Our energy was in and out we made some small little runs but then we made errors, simple errors to assess what defence they were in and try and pick the appropriate offense against it was something that I didn’t think we led well enough on the floor in making those decisions and obviously we coughed the ball up just too much tonight.”
Tai Wesley reiterated his coach’s comments of what went wrong for the Breakers and where the Hawks won.
“Their ability to shoot and make threes. Tonight we weren’t good defensively especially right at the start, those first three baskets were threes and were good looks and I think that got them going. Once you get the wheels rolling they’re hard to slow down and hard to stop and it seems like out there tonight it seemed like we couldn’t stop them, we couldn’t slow them down. We make a good offensive play but then they’d come back and answer it and make two more, so it was difficult,” said Wesley.
Beveridge said the competition in the League was still wide open.
“There’s more than the top four right now. Townsville can beat Perth as they’ve done three times, Adelaide are sitting right there too, so there’s definitely more than four teams in this comp.”
Illawarra were playing with one of their key players down, Rhys Martin who travelled across the Tasman was left low with a virus and couldn’t take the court and was left resting at the hotel.