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R5 Report - Perth fend off comeback Crocs

The Perth Wildcats have rebounded from Wednesday’s loss in Townsville to withstand another spirited Crocodiles comeback at Perth Arena on Friday night, winning 85-77 after an eventful two days between the two clubs. The Crocs went up 2-0 in the head-to-head series with their western rivals earlier in the week, but Perth got one back minus inspirational leader Damian Martin who is sidelined for up to two months after an incident with Townsville captain Brian Conklin. Conklin was cleared to play after the NBL Tribunal found him not guilty, but with 11 points on 5-16 shooting, the reigning League MVP’s affect was minimal while he was booed at every touch of the ball by the Perth faithful. The home side led by 17 early in the fourth quarter but Townsville whittled that down to six with two minutes to go, before a massive offensive board from Nate Jawai and bucket to Matt Knight gave them a 77-69 lead with 1:36 to play. Late Crocs threes to Corey Maynard, Mirko Djeric and Conklin made the Wildcats earn it, but the home team iced the game at the line to beat Townsville for the first time this season. The Wildcats shared the wealth with Jermaine Beal scoring 16 points after just four on Wednesday, Knight 15 (seven rebounds), Casey Prather 15, Jarrod Kenny 12, Jawai 11 (seven assists, six boards) and Jesse Wagstaff 10. Wildcats coach Trevor Gleeson was proud of how his team responded in the wake of an emotion-charged two days. "Under the circumstances and the emotion in the game, to play like that – especially in the second half, I was proud of their effort," Gleeson said. "There was a bit of maturity out there. They didn’t get caught up in the hoopla. When they stepped over the white line, it was business." Clint Steindl and Jordair Jett top-scored for the Crocodiles with 13 points while Mitch Young did a power of work with eight points and 11 rebounds in the absence of Luke Schenscher and with Nick Kay in foul trouble. After a forgettable two days in the lead-up, Conklin said he was simply glad to put that period behind him. "There was no malice in that incident and I never want to put someone out. Life's bigger than basketball so to know that I hit him (Martin) like that and for that reaction with his teeth and jaw was sad," Conklin said. "That's not the type of person I am as much as everyone else wants to blow it up and make a big thing out of it.” Not shying away from his own form slump, he added: “I haven’t shot the ball well this season so this game was no different and that's something I've been trying to deal with." The Wildcats threatened to break the game open in the first half but Jett’s buzzer-beating three for the Crocs on half-time ensured they trailed by just three. Perth's lead grew to 17 by early in the fourth quarter but a 10-run and threes to Djeric, Maynard and Conklin gave the Crocs a chance but the Wildcats held firm. Perth hits the road to face Illawarra (Wednesday) and New Zealand (Friday) while Townsville has an extended respite, playing the 36ers in Adelaide next Saturday. PERTH WILDCATS 85 (Beal 16, Kenny 15, Prather 15) TOWNSVILLE CROCODILES 77 (Jett 13, Steindl 13, Conklin 11) BOX SCORE
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