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R6 Report: Sixers respond to Wright demands in win

A staunch third-quarter defensive effort catapulted an injury-depleted Adelaide 36ers to an 89-65 victory over the Townsville Crocodiles in a controversial Saturday night at Titanium Security Arena. Answering coach Joey Wright’s impassioned calls for more attention to defence, the 36ers restricted Townsville to 12 points in the third quarter to take a 70-52 lead into the final period. Already without late withdrawal Adam Gibson, the home side’s playing stocks were weakened further when Mitch Creek failed to return to the court after Brian Conklin made contact with the 23-year-old while trying to score on Anthony Petrie under the basket. A visibly shaken Creek was helped to his feet and headed to the locker room aided by teammate Ebi Ere. He returned to the bench but played no further part in the match. “He was begging to come back and play but the doctor ruled him out,” Wright said post-game. The Sixers don’t expect Creek to miss any games, though Gibson (hip pointer) may remain sidelined next week. Adelaide fans booed Conklin – who was cleared of a striking charge last week – every time he touched the ball for the remainder of the game. Asked by Fox Sports commentator Shane Heal at half-time to describe the incident, Conklin explained: “I posted up, I go to shoot and [Anthony] Petrie fouls me. It’s just a typical thing. It’s basketball. It’s not a soft sport.” A deflated Townsville managed just 13 points in the fourth quarter, as the Sixers improved their record to 5-5. Despite playing without injured floor general Gibson, Adelaide pulled away in the second half on the back of blinding-quick guard Jerome Randle’s game-high 22 points. Sixers centre Daniel Johnson was instrumental with 17 points and a career-high 16 rebounds, while reigning NBL MVP Brian Conklin played strongly in his best outing of the season, racking up team-highs of 21 points (7-16 FG) and 12 rebounds. ‘’We’ve been talking about defence all week and holding them to 65 points is pretty good for us,” Johnson said. Wright would have loved his team’s defensive intensity in the early minutes, but the Sixers had all kinds of trouble executing at the offensive end, accumulating seven ugly turnovers. Neither side took a backward step as the lead changed hands six times in the first period alone. Randle freed himself for a jumpshot in the closing seconds, increasing the 36ers’ lead to 23-20 at quarter time. Wright was fuming when the Crocs opened the second period on a 5-0 run, burning a time-out and demanding a more committed effort from his players. They slowly but surely responded to his challenge and regained the lead on a pair of Lucas Walker free throws. The home side finished the period strongly, taking a 48-40 half-time lead on Ere’s lay-up in the closing seconds. Dominating with defence throughout the second half, Adelaide swiftly pushed the margin into double figures and held a healthy margin the rest of the way. “Joey (Wright) challenged them publicly, and regardless of whether they had Adam (Gibson) or not they were always going to come out hard,” Crocs coach Shawn Dennis said. “We matched it very well but then we started fouling and it got the scoreboard ticking over. They gained confidence from that and it steamrolled from there. No matter what we tried we couldn’t stem that roll.” The Sixers host the second-placed Perth Wildcats next Wednesday, while the Crocs (3-8) are on the road against league-leading Melbourne United next Friday. Adelaide 36ers 89 (Randle 22, Johnson 17, Ere 11) Townsville Crocodiles 65 (Conklin 21, Jett 12, Henry 8) BOX SCORE
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