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Crocs defeat Kings in Thursday night thriller

The Townsville Crocodiles claimed their first win of the 2015/16 NBL season, coming from behind to beat the Sydney Kings 80-77 on Thursday night at Qantas Credit Union Arena. Trailing by 10 at quarter-time, the Crocs tightened their defence over the final three periods, holding the Kings to 38 per cent shooting. American guard Jordair Jett tallied a game-high 22 points and six assists for Townsville, while Clint Steindl finished with 18. Julian Khazzouh had 15 points for Sydney but only six after the first quarter. Kings guards Jason Cadee and Steve Markovic added 12 apiece. ‘’It’s a huge win for our club,’’ Townsville head coach Shawn Dennis said. ‘’Everyone has written us off, but we still haven’t got a fully fit Jett yet. “He’s still carrying a hamstring and struggling through the best he can. You’ve only seen snippets of what he’s going to be able to do when he’s healthy.’’ Khazzouh signalled his intentions from the opening possession, spinning under the basket and flipping in a left-handed shot over his head for the game’s first points. He followed with a three-pointer on the next possession and made a four-point play a few minutes later when he was fouled on another successful three. Dennis had to make adjustments when American forward Brian Conklin went to the bench with two fouls and the Crocs responded, cutting the home team’s lead to two. But the Kings regained momentum and were up 28-18 Markovic muscled in for a lay-up on the quarter-time buzzer. The powerfully built Jett continued to trouble Sydney’s guards, driving aggressively to the basket to trim Sydney’s lead to 31-26 four minutes into the second period. After making 10/18 shots in the first quarter, the Kings were restricted to 4-of-15 shooting in the second, including 2/9 threes. The visitors were down 42-38 at halftime after Jett boosted his points tally to 16 with a short jump-shot in the closing seconds. The Crocs played with renewed energy after the break, as Steindl connected on back to back long bombs to tie the game at 47-all. Townsville forged ahead by four before baskets by Cadee and Dion Prewster put Sydney up 58-57 with a quarter to play. The lead changed hands again four minutes into the final period and Kings coach Damian Cotter responded by putting Khazzouh, Carter, Cadee and Tom Garlepp back into the game. The Crocs held their nerve, pulling ahead by three with Steindl’s shot in the paint. Khazzouh knocked in a pair of free throws and Prewster did likewise with 34 seconds remaining to give Sydney a 77-76 lead. Crocs guard Corey Maynard rose to the occasion after a steal by Schenscher, calmly sinking a three for a 79-77 lead with 15 seconds left. The Kings went to Khazzouh on their final possession but his fade-away shot fell short. Conklin then made one of two foul shots to clinch an 80-77 triumph. ‘’We kept fighting and put ourselves in a position to win,’’ Cotter said. ‘’It’s easy to get the doom and glooms but it’s the second round. We’ll bounce back and be better for that.’’ The Sydney Kings host the Illawarra Hawks on Saturday, while the Townsville Crocodiles also back up this weekend in the Reptile Rumble against the Cairns Taipans. BOX SCORE
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