NBL 2013/14: Round 17 Wrap

The competition was blown wide open with upsets galore in round 17 of NBL action. The top two sides both lost and the bottom two both won as the race for the playoffs got even tighter.

Crocs show bite, upset ‘Cats

In what was meant to be a David vs Goliath match-up in Townsville, the Crocs certainly didn’t bring that mentality into the contest. They didn’t see themselves as a heavy underdog; they knew that the NBL ladder provided no insight to what their game against the league leading Perth Wildcats was. This inspired the Crocodiles to push past the ‘Cats in an 88-75 victory on Friday night, thanks mainly to that inspired locker-room to never give up. Despite multiple runs by the Wildcats, Townsville were never out of the game as they were able to peg back the margin at every opportunity. In Crocs fashion, floor general Steven Markovic poured in a team high 22 points and 6 assists, while he was helped by many of his teammates included Todd Blanchfield (14 points, 9 rebounds, 2 steals), Josh Pace (17 points, 7 rebounds) and Brian Conklin (16 points).

Credit: Gordon Greaves of Gordon G Photography -  official photographer for the Skytrans Cairns Taipans and Cairns Basketball Inc

Credit: Gordon Greaves of Gordon G Photography -

official photographer for the Skytrans Cairns Taipans and Cairns Basketball Inc Perth’s scoring outputs were damaging during the early parts of each quarter, off the back of Jesse Wagstaff (24 points) and James Ennis (15 points, 8 rebounds). As the ‘Cats jumped out to a small lead early in the second term off the back of an 8-1 run, it seemed as if the Perth team that had been dominant all season were going to cruise to victory. Townsville had other ideas though, finding a way back thanks to some light work for Markovic and the home side had taken the lead into the main break. Perth once again stepped up a gear and this time tried to land the knockout blow with a 16-2 run early in the third. Defence was key in the period as the ‘Cats found ways to slow down the Crocs, while the visitors knocked down a few shots to improve their less than average field goal percentage on the night. This time, Townsville couldn’t quite find their bite in the same quarter, however left it until after the final change to make their run. Some inspirational play from Pace, plus some stifling defence from Blanchfield on Ennis staged an unlikely victory in the final period. Brian Conklin then put the icing on the cake as he found himself in the open court to slam one home for the fans. The Crocs must be given a huge amount of credit for the way they upstaged the favourites for the championship, only coughing the ball up seven times (to 12). Plus their adjustments on defence gave the visitors no room to shoot, converting from the floor at just 36%. The main culprits being their main four guys: Ennis, 4 from 13, Jermaine Beal, 3 from 12, Shawn Redhage, 2 from 8 and Damian Martin, 1 from 6. The Crocs now look to build on their two game win streak with the extra game this weekend against the Taipans, while Perth need to find their rhythm again when they meet second placed Adelaide next week at home.

Kings squeeze past NZ in nail-biter

Despite being fiery opponents on the night, the visiting New Zealand Breakers were unable to take the points on their trip to the Kingdome in Sydney Saturday night as the Kings held their nerve to register a 98-96 victory. With the two teams going toe-to-toe for the majority of the game and the margin not blowing out at any stage, it was Sydney who prevailed with their large advantage over their opponents in both the rebound count (44-33) and number of free throws (36-15). While the Kings nearly threw it all away, shooting a dismal 69% from the line, the team were thankful for sharp shooters Ben Madgen (20 points) and Tom Garlepp (18 points, 5 rebounds) to lead them from the floor. Big men AJ Ogilvy and Cody Ellis, despite having horrible shooting nights (4 for 15 and 0 for 7 respectively) dominated the glass for the home side, collecting 23 rebounds between them, including 14 offensive. For the visitors it looked as if they would steal the spotlight against the Kings once more this season, after their blowout victory at home not so long ago. Gary Wilkinson (33 points, 7 rebounds, 2 blocks) was a man on a mission, except his physical play put him under the referee’s nose on multiple occasions which hindered his big night. Kerron Johnson was simply superb and provided the spark each time the Breakers needed someone to rise to the occasion, registering 18 points and 10 assists. As the game narrowed down to the final stages Sydney led by a solitary point. Charles Carmouche was unable to get the ball inbounds and was whistled for a five second violation which opened up the chance for New Zealand to grab victory. Fortunately for the home fans the visitors couldn’t connect, despite a 51%FG shooting night, it didn’t go down at the right time and the third placed Kings can continue to look at climbing the NBL ladder. The Kings will hope to receive a depleted Wollongong squad next week as they face the Hawks on the second night of a back-to-back, while the Breakers head home to tackle the Cairns Taipans in game one of NBL’s triple header on Friday night.

Streaking Crocs hold off Snakes in final Reptile Rumble

Townsville have finished their weekend with a 2-0 record with a 90-82 victory over arch-rivals Cairns on Saturday night in the final instalment of the Reptile Rumble for season 2013/14. The visiting Crocs managed to apply the clamps to the Taipans usually potent offense and starve their shooters of opportunity throughout the night as Townsville’s own three-point brigade caught fire. Steven Markovic (24 points, 8-13 FG) was deadly from the outside all night while Todd Blanchfield (11 points) and Mitch Norton (13 points) provided plenty of help from deep. For the home side it was Demetri McCamey (17 points, 4 assists, 6-8 FG) who kept his side in it for most of the night but failed to get the support he needed outside of the hard-working Matt Burston (10 points, 10 rebounds). The Crocs, fresh from knocking off Perth at home a night earlier, started strongly to take a 21-15 lead into the first term and managed to keep Cairns at bay throughout the rest of the game. Cairns rallied at the start of the second half to get within two, but two big baskets from Norton and then Blanchfield, a bomb from deep, restored the advantage. The Taipans again fought back, this time from a double digit deficit late in the third, to begin the fourth term and got back on level terms thanks largely to a spurt Stephen Weigh (12 points). However, Markovic nailed another big three to kick off a 10-2 run fuelled by Brian Conklin (15 points, 5 rebounds) and Josh Pace (15 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists) to restore Townsville’s buffer for good. Despite going at 60% from the floor the Snakes were restricted to just 50 field goal attempts and 4-14 shooting from beyond the arc, while the Crocs generated 14 more shots and nailed 11 of their 22 three-point attempts. Cairns will look to bounce back with a win in a tough trip to New Zealand to take on the Breakers on Friday night, while the Crocs will look to extend their win streak to four when they travel to Wollongong to take on the Hawks in another winnable game.

Hot shooting Wollongong upstage Sixers

The Wollongong Hawks have surprised the NBL community with the third upset of the weekend with a dominant shooting display for their home fans in a 102-80 win at the WIN Entertainment Centre. For the first time this season, the Hawks have been able to crack the ton at home, which pleased all fans to the delight of free cheeseburgers post-game, something Rotnei Clarke made sure of in his post-game presser. Speaking of, it was Clarke (18 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists) who led his team in the three point barrage that came Adelaide’s way, knocking down five of his team’s 15 triples for the game, with most coming throughout the first half. This was where the Hawks packed their punch, the opening twenty minutes. Before the Sixers even realised they were off the plane and team bus, Wollongong had already stormed in and taken a twenty point advantage into half time. Joey Crawford was hardly pleased with his side’s early performance; however the comeback that was probable never seemed to occur. Behind Clarke, Tyson Demos (13 points), Larry Davidson (14 points), Tim Coenraar (14 points, 6 assists) and Kevin Tiggs (17 points, 5 rebounds), the home side was in full control of the contest and by middle of the third term it seemed as if the Sixers were throwing in the towel. Earlier on in the game, Adam Gibson provided one of the very few sparks for the away team, scoring 21 points on 8 for 14 shooting. However it was Mitch Creek who was Adelaide’s only positive for the afternoon registering 18 points and 10 rebounds, making sure his team weren’t completely embarrassed. Daniel Johnson was kept to one lonely rebound throughout the game, which was one of many key signs as to why the Sixers weren’t quite up to the challenge. Gary Ervin was never given a sniff, while team defence was a major problem, giving up 102 points and allowing way too much space for Wollongong shooters while in their zone sets. The Sixers will need to look ahead to next week where they face the tough task of heading to Perth to play the Wildcats, where both teams are in desperate need of a win. Wollongong has the home and away double, firstly playing Townsville before flying to Sydney to take on the Kings the night after.

Round 17 Summary

Townsville Crocodiles 88 (Markovic 22, Pace, 17, Conklin 16) Perth Wildcats 75 (Wagstaff 24, Ennis 15, Beal 11) Attendance: 3,207 @ Townsville Entertainment Centre Sydney Kings 98 (Young 20, Madgen 20, Garlepp 18) New Zealand Breakers 96 (Wilkinson 33, Johnson 18, Abercrombie 12) Attendance: 4,736 @ Qantas Credit Union Arena Cairns Taipans 82 (McCamey 17, Weigh 12, Gliddon 11) Townsville Crocodiles 90 (Markovic 24, Pace 15, Conklin 15) Attendance: 4,567 @ Cairns Convention Centre Wollongong Hawks 102 (Clarke 18, Tiggs 17, Coenraad 14) Adelaide 36ers 80 (Gibson 21, Johnson 19, Creek 18) Attendance: 1,840 @ WIN Entertainment Centre