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NBL 2014/15 Round 20: Perth put final nail in Crocs season with comeback win
The Perth Wildcats received the hit-out they needed before the playoffs, coming from behind to beat the Townsville Crocodiles 81-71 at Perth Arena. In a strange turn of events, the Wildcats were leading by double digits early in the game before relenting the lead and finding themselves behind in the second half. A strong showing by import DeAndre Daniels made sure the home team got the victory, scorching the Crocs to the tune of 24 points, 11 rebounds and 4 steals.
The Crocs again found themselves in a winnable game, but could not finish off the Wildcats, struggling to get to the free-throw line and unable to get in a rhythm around the rim. Star forward Brian Conklin struggled his way to 17 points but did not get the support he needed down the stretch. 22 turnovers doomed the Crocs, who settled far too often for the outside shot, with 11/27 made baskets coming from deep.
The Wildcats received a scare in the third quarter as they found themselves behind, yet they showed why they have championship aspirations by quickly erasing the deficit and building their lead again.
Perth jumped out of the gates, racing to an 11-3 advantage, punishing the Crocs from both inside and outside the arc. Daniels, getting off to a strong start after his limp, 8 point performance on Friday, hit three early treys. Showing the gap between the bottom and top of the league, the Wildcats' defense continued to stifle the visitors, extending their lead to thirteen. With two minutes to play in the quarter, the Crocs had only made four baskets, all coming from behind the arc, punctuating the Wildcats tough interior play.
Ahead 20-14 to start the second quarter, the Wildcats continued to build their lead, extending it to ten points. Townsville on the other hand, could not put the ball in the basket, shooting under 30% from the field and failing to get to the free-throw, only attempting two in the half. Some sharp shooting from Clint Steindl, kept the visitors in the game as half of their made field goals were three-pointers. A three point play by Brian Conklin capped a furious comeback to tie the game at 33, as the shooting woes role was reversed.
Perth took a slim 35-33 lead into the break, but must have been kicking themselves for letting Townsville back into the contest. Another Steindl trey jump started the Crocs second half, as they surged into the front, completing an 18 point turnaround to lead by five. The Wildcats took the lead back through four straight Damian Martin points, switching the momentum again to the home side. Both teams traded baskets to end the quarter with Perth maintaining their slight advantage, up 56-53.
The fourth quarter was for the purists only, as both teams were missing from all over the court, going periods as long as two minutes without a make. Daniels hit his fourth three-pointer of the night to push Perth's lead out to five, an almost insurmountable lead considering the shooting percentages (Perth - 37%, Townsville - 40%). With three minutes remaining, Daniels again hit a trey, this time extending the lead to 11 and putting the final nail in Townsville's season. Steven Markovic's fourth three-pointer cut the lead to single digits but they got no closer than nine the rest of the way.
Townsville's disappointing season ended as it started, with potential but not enough finishing power, meanwhile Perth has a week to get ready for a tough first round playoff with the newly crowned minor prems, the Cairns Taipans.
Townsville Crocodiles 71 (Conklin 17, Markovic 14, Blanchfield 14)
Perth Wildcats 81 (Daniels 24, Redhage 16, Jervis 14)