By Jono Hutchison
What a game last night. What a fitting way to complete the swept finals series, the proverbial three-peat and the cinematic story of the New Zealand Breakers.
So much has happened since the formation of the Kiwi club in 2003; for both the team and basketball in New Zealand. But, in many ways this drama began when Andrej Lemanis took over as coach for the 2005-2006 season.
Lemanis has been the stoic Sherpa Tenzing along the Breakers’ journey to conquer their own Everest. He has stood firm against the public storms of wintry discontent and kept playing a long game despite meeting frequent skepticism — including my own at times, it must be said.
There have been so many engaging sub-plots along the way. The phenomenon and then departure of Kirk Penney; the fall from grace and redemption of Corey Webster; and the successful embracing of Daryl Corletto after he was shafted by the Melbourne Tigers — to name only a few. Each story has had its own gripping dramatic twists and resolution.
The first championship win brought a hard-earned moment of jubilation and national recognition for the Breakers: the first Kiwi team to win a title in a trans-Tasman league. The second was a fierce and tense — but ultimately satisfying — battle against old rivals Perth. And last night was complete domination: the establishment of the Breakers as a fully-formed juggernaut that is without question the best team in the NBL, and by no small margin.
This is a wonderful place for the team to end this film. No doubt there will be sequels, as next season will certainly bring a number of significant changes and fresh challenges to be worked through, but right now this feels like the perfect ending.
Watching last night’s game felt very much like watching a final act. The stage had been set for a glorious conclusion but the tension was still high and the eventual happy resolution was no less relieving. As the confetti rained down and the three-time champions hugged and posed for the victory photos, you could almost imagine Lemanis turning to the camera with a knowing glance. He’s been directing this all along.