By Lendl Ryan, Pagemasters
The Townsville Crocodiles’ Peter Crawford lead the way in his record-breaking 259th game for the reptiles to deliver a 90-78 win over the Sydney Kings on Saturday.
Crawford, who overtook Rob Rose for the most games with the North Queensland outfit, got the party started early before netting 17 while top-scorer Michael Cedar (18) showed some old-school shooting form late to ensure the win.
Star duo Gary Ervin (15 points) and Luke Nevill (14) contributed as usual, and Todd Blanchfield's all-court game (13 points, 6 rebounds, 2 blocks) was also a key factor.
James Harvey (14 points), Ian Crosswhite (13 points, 6 rebounds) and Aaron Bruce (8 points, 7 assists, 4 rebounds) were all impressive for the visitors, but despite holding the lead for majority of the game they could not match a more spirited opponent in crunch time.
The Crocs surged at the start of the final term thanks to Cedar, who was at his deadly best from beyond the arc and the Kings could simply not answer the challenge as a tight game suddenly blew out to 10 points.
Croc’s coach Paul Woolpert said defence, including individual defence, won the game in the second half.
"It’s a good win against a good team," he said.
"We are evolving and we are evolving in a positive way.
"If we defend like that through the course of an entire game we will win a lot of basketball games."
Shooting guard Crawford said it was a terrific way to celebrate his milestone game.
"The feeling is pretty good, with any memory you have you want to make sure you get it done with a win," he said.
"Where we sit for this season, we have to win games, we don’t have a lot of room for mistakes.
"I think we are good enough, they are games that we can win, I think we came out and showed that tonight."
Townsville were the pace setters early with a 6-1 run to start and then kicked on again on the back of two three-pointers from Crawford, but they did not capitalise.
Sydney dominated the boards (12-6) and Harvey and Kevin White added the points on a 10-0 run to steal a late 23-20 lead at quarter-time.
There were chances in the second for both sides to stamp their authority but ill-discipline resulted in a spree of fouls at each end.
Despite a spectacular Ervin to Blanchfield alley-oop and blocks from both Nevill and Blanchfield, which had the crowd rocking, the Kings kept a narrow 45-42 advantage at half-time.
The third period turned into a grind as both teams struggled to gain any meaningful momentum, but Ervin and Blanchfield sparked late to give the Crocs a 64-59 edge at three-quarter-time.
Townsville lifted a gear in the final term with Cedar coming off the bench to find his range with two big triples.
Sydney slashed the margin to six before Crawford fittingly nailed the dagger three-pointer to put the Crocs out of danger and within two games of fourth place.
Townsville Crocodiles 90 (M Cedar 18, Crawford 17, Nevill 14)
Sydney Kings 78 (Harvey 14, Crosswhite 13, Henry 12, Madgen 12)
Crowd: 3648 at Townsville Entertainment Centre