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Impressive NBL wins for Crocs, Kings

By Chris Pike
9 February 2014 05:18AM EST

TOWNSVILLE continued its late season resurgence making it two NBL wins in as many nights this weekend on Saturday while Sydney scored a crucial win at home to New Zealand.

Coming off a win at home over the league-leading Perth Wildcats on Friday night to get off the bottom of the ladder, the Crocodiles made it back-to-back wins on Saturday travelling to Cairns to beat the Taipans in a Reptile Rumble, 90-82.

Saturday night's other game featured two teams in a battle over fourth spot, and it was the home team Sydney recording a thrilling 98-96 victory over the three-time defending NBL champion New Zealand Breakers.

New Zealand closed the gap between it and the fourth-placed Sydney with an emphatic 18-point win at home over the Kings last Thursday, but it was a much more competitive Kings line-up back inside the Sydney Entertainment Centre.

The Breakers did make a fast start opening up an early 12-6 advantage but the Kings had hit back and taken an 18-17 lead with three and-a-half minutes remaining in the first quarter.

Sydney then managed to take a 26-21 lead into the second quarter and then did manage to lead by as much as eight but this time it was New Zealand's turn to fight back and grab the lead back late in the first half.

The Kings did steady, though, to still lead 53-50 at the main break but it would be the Breakers who dominated the third quarter leading at one stage 75-66 in the biggest lead of the night.

However, Sydney went on a 10-2 to close out the quarter and trail by just one at three quarter-time on the back of a James Harvey three.

That set up a thrilling fourth quarter with the lead constantly see-sawing virtually on each possession down the stretch.

New Zealand did lead 94-91 with just under three minutes to go after a Kerron Johnson field goal, but Harvey made the deficit one and then Sam Young put the home team in front with one and-a-half minute to go.

And that was where Sydney would stay ending up winning 98-96 to improve to a 10-9 record on the season to remain in fourth position with a two-game lead on the 8-12 Breakers.

Ben Madgen finished with 20 points for Sydney as did Young who also contributed four rebounds, three assists and two steals for the night.

Tom Garlepp continued his breakout NBL season with another 18 points and five rebounds for Sydney as well while Charles Carmouche scored 13 points, Harvey 12 and centre AJ Ogilvy 11 to go with 12 rebounds and four assists despite only shooting 4-of-15 from the field.

Gary Wilkinson had a massive night for the Breakers scoring 33 points to go with seven rebounds on the back of shooting 12-of-19 from the field and 5-of-7 from three-point territory.

It was the first time the two-time championship winner, and Grand Final MVP, has scored more than 30 points in the NBL.

Johnson also finished with 18 points and 10 assists for New Zealand with Tom Abercrombie scoring 12 points and Daryl Corletto 10.

Meanwhile in Cairns for the fourth and final Reptile Rumble of the season, Townsville continued its improved form and inflicted a blow on the Taipans' finals hopes with an eight-point victory.

On Friday night, Townsville beat Perth by 13 points at home in impressive fashion to break a 10-game losing streak against the Wildcats, and then on Saturday night the Crocodiles ended a nine-game losing slide in Cairns against the Taipans.

The win improved the Crocs to a 7-13 record on the season to still remain the slimmest of slim playoff contenders, but it was a disappointing loss for the Taipans who now slip to a 9-13 record trying to chase down the 10-9 Kings in fourth spot.

The Crocs worked their way on top in the first quarter to lead 21-13 with 45 seconds left in the period and despite the Taipans trying to fight back and get close on several occasions, Townsville never again trailed.

Cairns did get back to within a point early in the second quarter and then even managed to level scores at 67-67 early in the fourth, but a Steve Markovic triple put Townsville back in front and that's where they stayed to win by eight points.

Markovic once again was the star of the night for the Crocs with another 24 points on the back of shooting 8-of-13 from the field and 4-of-8 from downtown.

Import big man Brian Conklin also added 15 points and five rebounds with fellow American Josh Pace finishing with 15 points, five boards, four assists and two steals.

Guard Mitch Norton also scored 13 points while Todd Blanchfield contributed 11 points, five rebounds and four assists.

Demetri McCamey top-scored for Cairns with 17 points and four assists with Stephen Weigh scoring 12 points, Cameron Gliddon 11, Jamar Wilson 11, Alex Loughton 11 and Matt Burston 10 to go with 10 rebounds and two assists.

The final game of Round 17 of the NBL will be on Sunday afternoon with the bottom-placed Wollongong Hawks hosting the second-placed Adelaide 36ers who are closing in on the shaky Perth's top spot.

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