By Murray Wenzel, Pagemasters
A scintillating second half from Alex Loughton and a triple at the death to Cam Gliddon all but ended the Townsville Crocodiles' playoff chances in Cairns on Friday night and guided the Taipans to a thrilling 78-75 win.
Loughton had missed all five field-goal attempts in the first half, but caught fire to finish with 25 points, 22 in the second half.
He almost single-handedly pulled the Taipans back from a 14-point half-time deficit before Gliddon flushed a game-winning triple from the corner with six seconds remaining to send the crowd into raptures.
Loughton (5-of-6 three-pointers) and Gary Ervin (18 points with 4-of-8 triples) traded threes in a free-wheeling final quarter that had Taipans coach Aaron Fearne in such a spin that he untucked his shirt.
Fearne labelled his team as mentally soft after a loss last Saturday, and was happy to see more poise down the stretch.
"We were in a pretty big hole but they battled hard, pegged it in, couldn't get over the hump and then got the crowd involved and played with some okay execution down the stretch," he said.
"There was some improvement there and to get a win like that; we haven't won many like that this season."
Loughton said the vibe of the game kept him firing.
"Yeah I had a lot of fun out there. Its a great game for the fans to talk about all week and bring their friends to the game next week," he said.
While he could not miss late, it was a different story for Loughton and his Taipans early on.
The Crocs had six players shooting at 50 per cent or better, but Taipans Cam Tragardh (0-of-5), Alex Loughton (0-of-5), Brad Hill (0-of-6) and Cam Gliddon (1-of-5) had 1-of-21 between them.
Three early stops in the second quarter helped Cairns bridge the gap and when Gliddon fed Edwards for a one-handed alley-oop they had regained the lead.
Aaron Grabau (14 points, 4-of-4 three-pointers) then made the most of some crisp passing to hit back-to-back triples, while Wilson fed Edwards with an amazing behind-the-back pass for a power jam to keep the hosts in front.
But it was all green from there until the main break. A 9-0 Crocs' run, including a Chris Cedar three and neat right-handed hooked lay-up, started the rot before an Ervin three gave them a 45-31 half-time advantage.
The Taipans began to roll in the third term, however, taking a one-point lead at the final break thanks to back-to-back triples from Loughton.
Wilson (15 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists) kept his cool in the final term, Loughton kept making shots and the Taipans controlled the boards, all leading to Gliddon's moment in the sun.
While Loughton said the Crocs could feel unlucky not to get the chocolates, Crocs coach Paul Woolpert was not about to curse the basketball gods.
"It comes down to hustle and desire. It's going and getting the basketball, and we didn't do it. I think that's the rap on our team in this league," he said.
"It's hard to win basketball games when out-rebounded 43-27 and when you give your opponent 16 more field goal attempts. We did a lot of things well though, but Alex Loughton was outstanding and you can't win games giving those things to your opponents."
Cairns Taipans 78 (Loughton 25, Wilson 15, Grabau 14)
Townsville Crocodiles 75 (Ervin 18, M Cedar 12, Crawford12)
Crowd: 3881 at Cairns Convention Centre