Close but no cigar
Crocs’ narrow loss to NZ is painful
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.