Close but no cigar

Crocs’ nar­row loss to NZ is painful

Townsville Bulletin - - Bizfi Nd - by Andrew Aloia andrew. aloia@ townsville­bul­letin. com. au

TOWNSVILLE had the fight but not the fin­ish as they fell ag­o­nis­ingly short of an up­set against New Zealand last night.

The Croc­o­diles had two shots at pulling off a come-frombe­hind thriller in the dy­ing sec­onds with Peter Craw­ford un­suc­cess­ful with a base­line three-pointer only for Luke Schen­scher to emerge with the of­fen­sive re­bound. A hasty short-range ef­fort, how­ever, failed to hit the rim and the game went beg­ging 66-65.

‘‘ It goes down to the wire, there is a shot to win it on the buzzer, if that ball goes in we are all happy and jump­ing around but it was close but no cigar,’’ coach Trevor Glee­son said.

As a loss it ranks as a painful one. The per­for­mance, how­ever, showed the grit of the North Queens­land out­fit who fought back from an 18-point deficit in the sec­ond term.

Glee­son ad­mit­ted that af­ter hold­ing a slen­der lead af­ter the first quar­ter his side had been stunned by the enor­mity of a top-of-the-ta­ble meet­ing.

‘‘ We forced a lot of turnovers and de­fended well but we weren’t re­ward­ing our­selves of­fen­sively,’’ Glee­son said.

New Zealand took full ad­van­tage, go­ing on a 22-4 run to start the sec­ond pe­riod.

DOWN TO THE WIRE: Croc Rosell El­lis de­fends New Zealand’s Mika Vukona

At the same time Townsville’s shoot­ing per­for­mance had bot­tomed out at 20 per­cent, cost­ing the Crocs dearly.

B e i n g c o m p r e h e n s i v e l y beaten on the boards, 43-33, only hurt them fur­ther.

It wasn’t un­til guard Will Blalock hit a three-pointer with 1 minute 40 to go that Townsville again found trac­tion in the con­test. When Michael Cedar landed his base­line triple to end the half, the mar­gin was back to eight and Townsville were look­ing strong again.

‘‘ We didn’t play par­tic­u­larly well, it was in­ten­sity and ef­fort and a will to win that got us back in it,’’ Glee­son said.

A s e c o n d - h a l f b l i t z b y Schen­scher, who hit 10 of his team-high 16 points in the third quar­ter af­ter wait­ing un­til early in the pe­riod for his first field goal, kept Townsville in the hunt as New Zealand con­tin­ued to find ways to score through Kirk Pen­ney, Mika Vukona and Kevin Braswell. Townsville were set up for a grand fin­ish when Rosell El­lis started the last quar­ter with a pair of bas­kets. With the mar­gin back to sin­gle fig­ures New Zealand pan­icked and were forced to play er­rat­i­cally as Crocs’ pres­sure paid off. Both Blalock and Craw­ford took ad­van­tage with steals and points, forc­ing a one-point game with 20 sec­onds to play. The win­ner never dropped, but a state­ment was made all the same.

‘‘ For a team that av­er­ages 88, to hold them to 66 points on their home court is an out­stand­ing ef­fort,’’ Glee­son said.

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