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R9 Report: Crocs crush rival Cairns

Townsville Crocs guard Jordair Jett responded to Monday's release of fellow American Brian Conklin with a career-high 26 points in Townsville's wire-to-wire 90-76 win over Queensland rivals Cairns Taipans. Wednesday night epitomised everything the young Crocs are about this season, and may very well become a cornerstone moment for the Townsville franchise. Jett was a level above, rounding off his stellar scoring night with five rebounds and four assists. Young bigmen Nick Kay (16 points and 12 rebounds) and Mitch Young (10 and 13) owned the paint in their first game without Conklin, beating the Snakes 42-29 on the glass. "It has been an emotional week at the whole club, so we talked about the best thing we could do out of respect to the whole situation was to come out and play as hard as we could," Crocs mentor Shawn Dennis said post-game. "The kid (Jett) can play. He's a great player and I'm glad we've hung in there with him because he's starting to repay that faith, and so are the kids." Torrey Craig led the way for Cairns with 18 points and seven rebounds, while Mark Worthington had an efficient 14 points. Cairns seemed doomed from the very first possession when Jett got into the passing lane for a steal and breakaway lay-up. Before the Snakes could even register a score, Jett had three buckets including a tricky self-assisted lay-in after throwing a baseline inbound pass off Stephen Weigh who had his back turned. The league's best penetrator (11 points on the quarter) stayed in attack mode, going on with the job as Cairns failed to impose any defensive pressure on the white-hot Crocs (13-18 FGs on the quarter), who ended the quarter up 31-9. The second 10 minutes was much like the first as Cairns' defence failed to pick up Townsville's ball-handler and as a result were burned in transition time after time. After a seven-turnover, zero-assist first term the Taipans gained some traction with 18 on the quarter, but found themselves trailing 53-27 at the main break – the Crocs' biggest half-time lead since January 2009. Jett (10 points) kept the score ticking in the second term, but went missing in the third as Markel Starks and the Taipans found their groove. Starks tripled in the first minute of the half and it marked his first made three-pointer in 21 prior attempts against an NBL team not named the 36ers. The Snakes fired their share of warning shots in a 13-1 run to open the half but Townsville, getting its first bucket midway through the quarter, settled themselves at the foul line to draw the lead back to 21 at the final break. "We've got guys that will be able to right the ship," Snakes captain Cameron Gliddon said. "We've got veteran guys and hungry young guys, but it starts at practice and unfortunately we don't have one until the next game. "You will see a different Cairns Taipans team on Friday." Despite a late flurry of Cairns points (28 in the final term), the locals' lead was never challenged. Townsville stay home to face New Zealand on Saturday, while Cairns lace up on Friday at home against Sydney.   TOWNSVILLE CROCODILES 96 (Jett 26, Kay 16, Steindl 13) CAIRNS TAIPANS 70 (Craig 18, Worthington 14, Starks 11) BOX SCORE
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