Whilst many teams celebrated ‘Mad Monday’, four teams were preparing to become the ‘Champions of the universe of the NBL’. The Townsville Crocs have a hard task of taking on the top of the table, Nez Zealand Breakers and the Gold Coast Blaze take on the Perth Wildcats. Two series, Four (or five, or six) games. This is the NBL, it goes off….
Crocs stun Breakers
With the beautiful Vector Arena filled to capacity the referees threw the ball in the air to signal play. Townsville had crossed the Tasman with one thing on their mind and that was to ambush the Breakers, stun then run.
The Crocs rolled with the punches in the first quarter. The intensity matched the size of the crowd. Gary Wilkinson giving it his everything to give the Breakers the edge, just as the Breakers looked like they were going to get going the Crocs just had all the answers.
Behind Peter Crawford and former NBA journeyman Eddie Gill the Crocs took their minor lead and began to peel away in the third quarter. Well, peel is an understatement, the Crocs stymied the Breakers going on a 30 – 18 run. No matter what the Breakers did, the Crocs responded and then some. Though the game finished at 99 – 82; it was over earlier. The Crocs managed to the first game on the road.
With respect to the Breakers, they had such a ‘tough’ week. Not content with two players in the allstar team and second place in two awards the Breakers felt snubbed at the NBL awards night. To make things worse, the thundersticks which were ordered to make the fans louder were almost stuck on the wharf due to industrial actions (they did get to Vector Arena just in the nick of time, in case you were wondering); and then they were apparently peeved because they feel the Crocs picked their opponents and didn’t respect them.
Anyway, the team which ostensibly has multiple players capable of winning the defensive player of the year let the Crocs shoot the ball from 57% from the field (and from outside the arc too). The Breakers weren’t lazy or lethargic out there, they were just shown up by a team, either one that wanted it more or one that is a little more desperate; anyway, with the series going over to Townsville we are seriously looking forward to seeing how it unfolds.
Peter Crawford scored a game high 26 points, Eddie Gill scored 21 and had 4 steals and Elvin Mims scored an efficient 13. Thomas Abercrombie led the Breakers with 20 points, Gary Wilkinson 19 points and Cedric Jackson and Mika Vukona both had uncharacteristic nights notching up 5 turnovers and 7 turnovers respectively
Perth 85, Gold Coast 70
In what is starting to become a familiar script for games at Challenge Stadium, the Wildcats held out for a relatively comfortable win. After a huge Damian Martin block just after tip off, things were running tight for both teams, the Wildcats slow out of the gate and Anthony Petrie keeping the Blaze in it until Jesse Wagstaff subbed in, the retro man firing up two quick successful threes. Mark Worthington then responded with two threes of his own and just before half time Wagstaff and NBL MVP Kevin Lisch both swished another two three pointers each and the Wildcats went into half time with a thirteen point lead.
Though the Blaze from here didn’t show a lot of fight, they did show glimpses of what they are capable of. With Wortho having a quiet one (game, not beer) Adris Deleon hit some big shots and Gibbo, injury aside was able to get to the hoop relatively easily and Petrie kept himself busy; but they just couldn’t get it all going together. The well-oiled and finely tuned machine that is the Wildcats were just too good in game one. As a fan of basketball in general we just hope that the loss hasn’t tore the hopes of the Blaze like it has Gibbo’s calf muscle. We’d like to see a good battle.
In largely a team effort, Jesse Wagstaff brought some spark off the bench scoring 16 points, Luke Nevill continues his good form against the Blaze with 14 points and Kevin Lisch scored 12 and dropped 7 assists. In comparison, the Blaze were a two man show, Deleon finished with a game high 23 points and Petrie, after a great start finished with 20