Rookies star as Crocodiles wrap up second place Young talent time
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.
‘‘ It’s provided a level of trust for
that the guys can