By Thomas Woodgate, Pagemasters
An inspired performance from Ben Madgen (33 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals, 2 blocks) has led the Sydney Kings to a 83-67 win over Townsville Crocodiles on Sunday afternoon.
In what was billed as a do-or-die fixture for the Kings, and with two of their starting five missing, it was Madgen who stepped up in a dominant performance.
In doing so, he helped the Kings snap an eight-game losing streak and give their finals push renewed hope.
“It’s not just about my performance, everyone stepped up today,” a modest Madgen said.
If Madgen’s points were the finesse to the Kings’ performance, powerful import Darnell Lazare (21 points, 4 rebounds, 3 steals) was the grunt.
His immense contribution at both ends of the court as vital as Madgen’s points, as was Ian Crosswhite (13 points, 6 rebounds), who’s running battle with giant Crocs centre Luke Nevill (5 points) helped nullify the big man’s influence.
“We’ve got two starters out and I was really proud of the guys to step up today,” Kings coach Shane Heal said.
“I thought we were relentless tonight on the defensive end.”
When Nevill left the game midway through the final quarter after too many fouls – joined shortly after by ex-King Russell Hinder – it capped off a miserable afternoon for the Crocs.
After scoring with the first play of the game the Crocs did not hold another lead and were never in the game, Peter Crawford’s 22 points the only highlight in an otherwise miserable afternoon.
“As a coach, I should never, when putting together a scouting report, have to wonder what Townsville Crocodiles team is going to show up,” a dejected Crocs coach Paul Woolpert said.
“That should be a given and a done deal that we’re going to come out – given the time of the season – that we’re going to come out and fight and I am flabbergasted by that effort.”
The Crocs simply had no answer for Madgen or a rejuvenated and desperate Kings side, a crushing alley-oop from Lazare in the final 30 seconds an exclamation point on a rousing performance.
With Heal more animated than usual on the sidelines, the Kings started with a high-intensity and desperation on defence and they didn't let up for four quarters.
Indeed, a double rejection in the third quarter as the Kings’ defence strangled the life out of the Crocs showed the home side’s steely grit and determination.
And when Madgen scored six unanswered points in the closing stages of the third quarter, to open up a 27-point lead, his elated celebration to the crowd was like a release of pent-up frustration from the team’s previous losing streak.
Now the Kings’ finals hopes live to fight another day after an impressive 16-point win.
“For us, it was all about desire tonight and I wanted the guys to go into the game with the mindset to be able to pounce on Townsville and not let them get a sniff, and we did a good job of that,” Heal said.
Sydney Kings 83 (Madgen 33, Lazare 21, Crosswhite 13)
Townsville Crocodiles 67 (Crawford 22)
Crowd: 4955 at the Sydney Entertainment Centre