An enormous Gary Ervin three-point bomb with 16 seconds to play delivered Townsville a thrilling 75-73 win over the Melbourne Tigers on Sunday.
Following an incredible shoot-out in the final quarter, Ervin nailed the Crocs’ last nine points of the game from beyond the arc to keep his team’s playoff hopes alive and bring The Swamp crowd to fever pitch.
In the third term it looked as if Melbourne’s star duo of Chris Goulding (26 points) and Adam Ballinger (17 points, 8 rebounds) had put the Tigers in a winning position, scoring 13 points between them to establish a 10-point advantage.
Goulding stayed hot early in the final quarter but Mitch Norton, Peter Crawford and Russell Hinder all made big plays to keep the Crocs close before Ervin’s virtuoso display from long range.
Ervin finished with 13 points and eight assists and was a relieved man after the game.
“At crunch time it’s going to live and die by me. I wanted to make a play and I felt good, I had made two (three-pointers) in a row and he was backing up and I had to be confident,” he said.
“I only had four points (until then) but we were within reaching distance, I felt like I had got the guys shots and when crunch time came it was like it had been a disguise and I just wanted to step up to the plate.”
It was Ballinger who started the game hot, and when Tommy Greer (15 points, 14 rebounds) and Nate Tomlinson joined the party the Tigers edged ahead.
A sweet Goulding step-back had Melbourne up 19-14 but an athletic back-door dunk from Todd Blanchfield put the Crocs back within three at quarter-time.
Norton’s energy and speed drew Townsville level early in the second but the Tigers responded with a flying alley-oop from Tomlinson to Benny Lewis.
With Greer seemingly grabbing every contested ball Melbourne again drew ahead, and only the finishing of Luke Nevill around the basket and a buzzer-beating triple by Russell Hinder reduced the Tigers’ lead to 39-34 at the long break.
It was all Melbourne again in the third term but they wasted chances to put the Crocs away, Hinder again stepping up with a late long jump-shot to have the home team within five with 10 minutes to play.
Townsville drew level early in the fourth but seven straight points from the unflappable Goulding put the Tigers back in charge.
What followed was a remarkable display of back-and-forth shooting by both teams before Ervin had the final say in spectacular fashion.
Townsville Crocodiles 75 (Crawford 13, Ervin 13, Hinder 13)
Melbourne Tigers 73 (Goulding 26, Ballinger 17, Greer 15)
Crowd: 3442 at Townsville Entertainment Centre