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Taipans, Wildcats win NBL encounters

By Chris Pike
26 January 2013 04:06AM EST

TOWNSVILLE continued to prove itself as a viable NBL playoff contender but Crocs coach Paul Woolpert was the second boss in three weeks to leave Perth feeling the referees had a major impact on the result.

Following New Zealand's win at home to the Sydney Kings on Thursday, Friday night's action saw the Cairns Taipans beat the Melbourne Tigers at home 85-71 and then in front of 10,900 people at the Perth Arena, the Wildcats scraped home to beat the Crocodiles 62-59 in a thriller.

Cairns dominated the last quarter against the Tigers to win by 14 points and ensure that all eight teams in the competition remain alive in the race to the finals.

New Zealand (16-3) and Perth (13-4) look a cut above the rest, but then Sydney (10-10) and Wollongong (8-9) are just clinging to third and fourth spots respectively ahead of Melbourne (6-10), Cairns (6-11), Adelaide (6-12) and Townsville (6-12).

The Taipans outscored the Tigers 21-11 in the final quarter to set up their sixth win of the season, and just third from nine games at home.

Cairns is now starting to build some form winning two of its last three games after a four-game losing run, and it was so far underwhelming import Shane Edwards who came up big in the final period to finish with 13 points and nine rebounds.

Cam Tragardh was made more of a focus by the Snakes in the game and it paid off as he scored 18 points to go with eight boards. Jamar Wilson also had 19 points and six boards and Alex Loughton 12 points, six rebounds and four assists.

Chris Goulding top-scored for Melbourne with 15 points. Jonny Flynn had 14 points, six rebounds and four assists, but also five turnovers while Seth Scott added 13 points.

Then at the Perth Arena, the Wildcats somehow escaped to beat the surging Crocs by three points.

In a low-scoring and dour affair until the last quarter, Townsville opened up a 10-point advantage during the third period and looked set to record its first win in Perth since the quarter-final of 2009 when back-to-back Michael Cedar threes had them up by seven midway through the last.

However, three triples from Wildcats star Kevin Lisch saw the home side back in front, but Cedar again responded with another bomb to put the Crocs a point in front with 55 seconds to go.

The last laugh went to Wildcats big man Matt Knight, though, who hit his first three-pointer of the season with 35 seconds remaining to see the 'Cats win their seventh straight match over Townsville, and fifth straight this season to maintain pace with New Zealand.

Lisch finished with 17 points for the Wildcats despite shooting just 6-of-19 from the field, and 3-of-10 from three-point territory. Knight also had 15 points and eight rebounds, and Shawn Redhage 10 points and four boards in his 250th NBL match.

Damian Martin's defence was outstanding as well as he finished with four points, seven rebounds, five steals and three assists. He helped limit Townsville star Gary Ervin to 12 points and nine assists on 5-of-16 shooting from the field, and 0-of-7 from beyond the arc.

Peter Crawford had 11 points and 14 rebounds for Townsville with Luke Nevill adding 11 points (and three massive blocks), Cedar 11 and Todd Blanchfield 11.

Crocs coach Woolpert couldn’t help but feel his team let a golden opportunity slip to get a crucial win to get even closer to fourth spot.

Despite starting the season with 10 straight losses, the Crocs have now won six of their last eight games, and considering the Kings have lost four straight but remain third, and the Hawks have lost six in-a-row but sit fourth, they very well could be the third best team in the NBL.

However, winning is what will get them to the finals and Woolpert has no doubt the lopsided foul count that saw the Wildcats receive 18 free-throws from fouls to his team's six had a major impact on the result. Just like Tigers coach Chris Anstey felt a fortnight ago.

"I'm extremely disappointed to think that for the majority of the game we outplayed the Wildcats. I told the guys at a couple of time-outs in the fourth quarter to go out and get it because we deserve it, and it just didn’t happen," Woolpert said.

"We didn’t get enough movement down the stretch and our aggression wasn’t what it needed to be, but for the majority of the game both teams defended extraordinarily well. It was just a matter of the Wildcats hitting some big shots down the stretch and the fact that they shot 18 free-throws to our six.

"In my opinion that is ridiculous. There were two teams playing extraordinarily physical and the fouls were 17 to 11. That made it extraordinarily difficult for us to win that game. A number of those calls I would have liked to see them change."

Round 16 of the NBL will continue on Saturday with the fourth-placed Wollongong Hawks facing the top-of-the-table New Zealand Breakers. Then on Sunday, fifth-placed Melbourne hosts seventh-placed Adelaide at The Cage.

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