The Townsville Crocodiles held out an injury-ravaged Wollongong Hawks to win 82-74 in the Heritage Round clash in Townsville on Saturday night.
The Hawks cut an 18-point deficit to seven with six minutes remaining, but a week after capitulating against the New Zealand Breakers the Crocs hung on thanks to nine fourth-quarter points from Gary Ervin.
The two-man game of point guard Ervin (26 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals) and centre Luke Nevill (14 points, 5 rebounds) again carried the Crocs.
For the Hawks, forward Oscar Forman (15 points) was lethal hitting five-of-nine from downtown, while Adris Deleon (13 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists, 6 turnovers) overcame a poor shooting night to contribute all over the court.
After being out-rebounded 44-18 last week, Crocs coach Paul Woolpert was pleased with the rebounding effort.
"The main thing is we only allowed them five offensive rebounds - if you do that to any team in this league you're going to give yourself a hell of a chance to win," he said.
"That's six out of seven games we've won. And five of those six wins have been very close so I think the majority of our wins we have won down the stretch and we have made plays," he said.
"If you make defensive plays, that wins games and wins championships, so if we continue to defend like that we can beat any team in the league."
The teams were neck-and-neck in the first quarter before six quick points by Crocs back-up point guard Mitch Norton put his side up four at the first break.
When the Crocs began establishing the interior presence of Nevill, who scored six points in the opening minutes of the second term, things were looking ominous for the visitors.
Ervin and Hinder also featured strongly in the period, putting the home team up 11 at half-time.
The Hawks looked to be crawling back in the third period after an Oscar Forman three-pointer put them within six, but the Crocs stretched the lead back to 10 after Ervin hit Todd Blanchfield for an alley-oop in the open court.
A Hinder three put the Crocs up by as much as 18, but the Hawks railed back within 11 at the last break on the back of a Glen Saville triple.
A three by Hawks forward Oscar Forman trimmed the margin to seven midway through the final period, but long-range bombs from Ervin and Crawford moments later restored a 13-point edge for Townsville.
A three by Tyson Demos again put the Hawks within striking distance, but the Crocs kept their composure down the stretch to record their sixth win and move within two games of Wollongong in fourth place.
"When you're backing up and you're on the road, you've got to play smart, and really I don't think we played smart tonight," Hawks coach Gordie McLeod said.
"We allowed them to get to their strengths, the paint, when part of the game plan was to force them to the perimeter.
"We knew the importance of valuing the ball, (yet the Crocs) got nine points from turnovers.
"For us at the moment, where we are with the personnel, we've got to play so much smarter than the opposition, we've got to work so much harder."
Townsville Crocodiles 82 (Ervin 26, Nevill 14, Hinder 12)
Wollongong Hawks 74 (Forman 15, Deleon 13)
Crowd: 3632 at Townsville Entertainment Centre