Rook­ies star as Croc­o­diles wrap up sec­ond place Young tal­ent time

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

IT was an af­fec­tion­ate threat of phys­i­cal vi­o­lence that i ns p i r e d t e e nage Crocodi l e Todd Bl a nchf i e l d ’ s match­win­ning feats against Mel­bourne.

Townsville cap­tain Rus­sell Hin­der de­cided to strike fear into the young swing­man’s heart when for a mo­ment Blanch­field dropped his head dur­ing half­time of his come­back game on Satur­day night.

‘‘ Well I was walk­ing down the tun­nel at half­time and I was sort of a bit down and Rusty put his arm around me and said, ‘ If you don’t keep be­ing ag­gres­sive I’m go­ing to punch you in the face’,’’ Blanch­field grinned.

It will go down as one of the skip­per’s most mov­ing barbs, as Blanch­field went on to spark a thrilling fi­nalquar­ter turn­around in the 82-72 win at The Cage.

What­ever trep­i­da­tion Blanch­field had about his fit­ness, he ad­mit­ted he held back when he first took the floor af­ter a month out with a badly-bruised lower back leg, was scared out of him.

‘‘ Ob­vi­ously I was go­ing to keep be­ing Blanch­field said. ‘‘ He just gave me that con­fi­dence, and it paid off.’’ Nine­teen-year-old Blanch­field wasn’t over­awed when called upon with the Crocs’ hold on sec­ond place on the NBL lad­der look­ing shaky when they trailed the Tigers by seven points head­ing into the fi­nal quar­ter.

He ig­nited a 29-12 fi­nal quar­ter surge by drain­ing a trio of three-point­ers to level the scores in­side four min­utes.

With Blanch­field fir­ing in tan­dem with fel­low rookie Ben Allen, who hit 10 of his 12 points in an in­spired fi­nal stanza, it was youth that se­cured Townsville their best fin­ish to the reg­u­lar sea­son in a decade.

It was a sur­real mo­ment for Blanch­field, more used to see­ing clutch shoot­ing from vet­er­ans Peter Craw­ford and Brad Wil­liamson and shoot­ing guard Michael Cedar de­cide the Crocs’ fate.

‘‘ I def­i­nitely know what Blanch­field laughed.

Heck, un­til Satur­day night the duo of bounc­ing baby Crocs didn’t know what fourth-quar­ter bas­ket­ball was.

‘‘ We have never been out there at that time in the game,’’ Blanch­field said.

‘‘ We usu­ally watch the end of the game to­gether ( from the bench).

‘‘ Benny was hit­ting shots, I was hit­ting shots, it was a good feel­ing both be­ing out there to­gether.’’

The im­pact of their per­for­mance, which in­spired a per­fect seven-from-seven three-point shoot­ing per­for­mance by the Crocs in the fi­nal quar­ter, goes be­yond one mile­stone vic­tory.

As Hin­der puts it: those guys’’.

‘‘ We know when the bright lights are on and we need them to step up they are not afraid to step up and shine,’’ he added. ‘‘ The two young kids were in­cred­i­ble for us.’’ What may have looked like a des­per­ate gam­ble by coach Trevor Glee­son turned out to be an in­cred­i­ble show of faith.

‘‘ It’s con­fi­dence, con­fi­dence form,’’ Glee­son said.





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