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R1 REPORT: Blanchfield returns to Townsville, downs Crocs

Former Townsville Crocodiles captain Todd Blanchfield broke into his new Melbourne jersey in the best possible fashion, blasting his old side off the court 99-84 in their return to The Swamp. The man Crocodiles legend Russell Hinder affectionately nicknamed 'Vinny' hit with a vengeance in his first NBL game not wearing a Crocodiles jersey, netting 29 points (11-15 FGs) and grabbing eight rebounds, while big-ticket import Hakim Warrick worked an efficient 21-point (8-11 FG) night. For the hosts, captain Brian Conklin signalled his intent with 25 points and five rebounds (four offensive) in his third season in Crocs colours, but found little support around him. United opened the game on fire from the arc, getting crisp ball movement and good pick-and-roll play from Stephen Holt, as Holt himself had 10 points on the quarter. The visitors were fierce on the glass early, outrebounding Townsville 15-6 in the first 10 minutes – 11 of which coming from Blanchfield and impressive young centre Majok Majok. But the Crocs bit back by upping the tempo on both sides of the ball, getting easy looks at the rim for imports Conklin and Jourdair Jett, who imposed his running-back figure on defenders to get to the rim. The Crocs went 7/13 in the paint over the second term as United (15 points on the quarter) clicked back to second gear after the 28-19 first quarter lead. Quality Melbourne execution that brought about a 13-2 run midway through the first quarter was nowhere to be seen as they started finding less from the pick-and-roll. Their only shining light was Warrick (10 points on the term), who almost tore down both the rim and shot clock with a two-handed slam after a Holt miss. Going into the rooms down just one point, Townsville continued to roll on, with a Conklin bucket putting them up three. But a turnover and two missed shots ensued as Warrick and Blanchfield alone put on 11 of United's 13 in quick-time to draw snatch back the lead. Holt joined the party with a personal 7-2 run and before the Crocs could blink they were down 13 with 2:39 left in the third term. Mirko Djeric tried to lift the crowd with a straight-away triple later in the quarter but the resistance was futile as Blanchfield daggered to draw the margin out to a dozen one possession into the fourth period. A 12-point lead doubled in just three minutes as the 24-year-old continued to land jumpshots. "I felt pretty good coming into tonight," he said post-game. "It felt pretty good coming into tonight. We played the Blitz up here and played three games before coming back. It got rid of a lot of nerves; that's me being honest," he said post-game. Steindl – who had four points in the final 36 seconds – was the third Croc to score in double digits as he salvaged some respectability for the home side, which went down by 15 in their return to their spiritual home court. Post-game Crocs coach Shawn Dennis said his side needed to stay in the fight for longer. "When we play the right way we're a damn good basketball team and we have to just increase the minutes that we play that way (in the second quarter). "You have to deal with that mentally, and that's going to be our battle – to deal with those things mentally." Schenscher added: "I think it was a good learning experience for (us). "We missed our rotations and we missed certain things that we were meant to be doing, they made us pay every time." MELBOURNE UNITED 99 (Blanchfield 29, Warrick 21, Holt 17) TOWNSVILLE CROCODILES 84 (Conklin 25, Steindl 13, Djeric 11) BOX SCORE
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