NBL 2014/15 Round 16: ‘Cats stifle Crocs in OT for crucial win

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Perth has seen off a stern challenge from Townsville to prevail in a 93-85 overtime NBL victory at Townsville RSL Stadium.

The out of form Wildcats were simply better when it mattered as they restricted the Crocs to just three points in the extra period as they ran away with it in the final stages.

After a tight opening five minutes, it was the Crocs who gained the upper hand as two alley-oops to Mickell Gladness and Todd Blanchfield, as well as a three-pointer to the latter, forged a seven point lead.

An eight-point lead with 90 seconds to play in the opening stanza was reduced to two by the first break as the Wildcats found their feet, carrying the momentum into the second term and taking the lead.

However, the home side finished the half much stronger, with a Steve Markovic three-point bomb kick-starting a 13-4 run over the final 2:30 as the Crocs indulged in a handy seven-point lead at the main change.

The third term quickly turned into an arm-wrestle, and every time Townsville threatened to put a break on the visitors, the ‘Cats would find a way to stay close, eventually tying the game away at 62 on a Jermaine Beal bucket.

That would be the final scoring act of the third quarter, setting the scene for a tense finale.

Both teams traded blows in the early stages of the fourth, trading turns in the lead over the opening five minutes as they struggled to gain the upper hand.

For all their hard work, however, the scores were tied again at 78 after a pair of Jermaine Beal foul shots with three minutes to play.

Out of a timeout Crocs star Brian Conklin scored four straight points to give his side a two possession lead, and when Shawn Redhage turned it over on the next play the home side looked like they would hold on.

Enter Beal, who, after a quiet night, stepped up with a big bucket to get his side within two, before drawing a foul and nailing both at the line with 22 seconds to play to tie the ball game once more.

Conklin’s game-winning attempt was off at the buzzer and the game was sent into an extra period.

Jesse Wagstaff opened overtime with a huge three to silence the crowd, and when he connected on another field goal the ‘Cats’ lead was at five with three minutes to play and the Crocs were under the pump.

The home side’s offense deserted them down the stretch, and after trading foul shots a Tom Jervis bucket with under a minute to play extended the margin to seven and effectively killed off the gallant Crocs.

Beal was brilliant in the fourth quarter and overtime, coming up clutch when Perth needed him as he finished with 21 points, while Wagstaff (19 points, 7 rebounds) was also damaging when it mattered.

For the home side, Conklin was again dominant despite the loss, finishing with a game-high 28 points along with 9 boards, while Blanchfield added 18 points and seven boards.

Perth will now face Cairns in the second leg of their crucial Sunshine Swing, while Townsville will travel to Melbourne to face United on Sunday night.

Townsville 85 (Conklin 28, Blanchfield 18, Markovic 15)

Perth 93 (Beal 21, Wagstaff 19, Jervis 12)