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Ervin leads Crocs to win over Hawks

By Chris Pike
20 January 2013 04:11AM EST

TOWNSVILLE took another step towards snatching Wollongong's spot in the NBL top-four with the Crocs beating the Hawks by eight points at The Swamp on Saturday night.

The Hawks put up a fight all night long and refused to give up on the contest against the Crocs, but in the end the fact they were missing their starting back court of Lance Hurdle and Rhys Martin, and had played in a heartbreaking one-point loss in New Zealand on Thursday before travelling to Townsville had its impact.

Wollongong's season is on the slide largely due to the injuries with the Hawks now having lost six straight games, and eight of their last nine, since starting the season so promisingly winning seven of eight games to begin the 2012/13 campaign.

However, the Hawks now sit on an 8-9 record to cling still to fourth position on the ladder but with Hurdle and Martin having being ruled out for the rest of the season with serious knee injuries.

While Adris Deleon has had some match-winning games, Martin and Hurdle have likely been Wollongong's best performers so how they are covered will determine if the Hawks cling on to play finals or not.

Despite starting the season with a horror 10-game losing run, remarkably Townsville now is the form team of the NBL behind the top two sides New Zealand and Perth.

After going 0-10, Townsville has now won six of their last seven games to be just two games outside of fourth spot.

The one loss in that period was a nail-biter to the Breakers so the Crocs are in tremendous form and now face a big test next Friday against the Wildcats at the Perth Arena.

A good performance there and the Crocs will certainly deserve to be taken seriously as a playoff contender with spots below New Zealand and Perth still up for grabs.

On Saturday night, Townsville started strongly to lead by four points at quarter-time and despite Wollongong's best efforts were never seriously threatened holding an 11-point half-time advantage and the same at three quarter-time before ending up winning by eight.

Former league MVP Gary Ervin, won when playing with Wollongong in 2010-11, continued his brilliant form with another 26 points, seven rebounds and four assists.

Over the last seven games, Ervin has been in MVP calibre form once again averaging an outstanding 23.8 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4.4 assists.

While Ervin's form has helped turn Townsville's season around, so has the arrival of 7'2 centre Luke Nevill, who had another 14 points, five boards and two assists against the Hawks.

Captain Russell Hinder also had 12 points, six rebounds and four assists with Peter Crawford adding 11 points.

Crocs coach Paul Woolpert was delighted with the effort from his team and the continued improvement they are showing.

"The main thing is that we only allowed them five offensive rebounds. If you do that to any team in this league you're going to give yourself a hell of a chance to win," Woolpert said.

"That's six out of seven games we've won now and five those six have been very close so I think the majority of our wins we have won down the stretch, and have made plays.

"If you make defensive plays, that wins games and wins championships. If we continue to defend like we have been, we can beat any team in this league."

Wollongong tried hard with Deleon finishing with 13 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, but shot just 5-of-15 from the field and 0-of-5 from three, and had six turnovers. Oscar Forman scored 15 points, Tim Coenraad 11 and Dave Gruber 11.

Hawks coach Gordie McLeod knows that his team is struggling for personnel as well as some form right now, but remains confident of things turning around.

"When you're backing up and you're on the road, you've got to play smart and really I don’t think we played smart tonight. We allowed them to get to their strengths, the paint, when part of the game plan was to force them to the perimeter," McLeod said.

"We knew the importance of valuing the ball, but they got nine points from turnovers. For us at the moment, where we are with the personnel, we've got to play so much smarter than the opposition and we've got to work so much harder."

Round 15 of the NBL concludes on Sunday when the Adelaide 36ers host the New Zealand Breakers at the Adelaide Arena.

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