By Trevor Jackson
A STRONG first half of basketball helped the Castec Rural Pioneers hold on for a hard-fought victory against a strong Ringwood Hawks side in Round 3 of the NBL1 South conference.
The Pioneers hit the floor running on Saturday night at the Icehouse, with 27 first-quarter points to Ringwood’s 21.
From there the game evened out, with the Pioneers again on top in the second term, but by just two points.
The Hawks won the next two quarters by three and one point respectively and put up a huge fight as the clock wound down late in the game.
But by then the damage had been done and the Pioneers prevailed, with some big plays down the stretch needed to remain in front.
“It was a tough game,” coach Richard Hill said.
“We escaped with a win, but we did some good things.
“We were good down the stretch, but two or three times we were able to get it out to 10 or 12 then kept letting them back into the game.
“We made some simple mistakes and they made some tough plays.”
Despite the tough contest, some good individual performances helped get the Pioneers across the line.
One was Erik “Eze” Burdon who top scored for the side with an impressive 22 points.
Of those, 18 points came from beyond the three-point arc, while the remaining four came from the free-throw line.
The performance was certainly not lost on the coach.
“He is shooting the ball well,” Hill said.
“He shot the ball well in Sandringham last week then followed on from that.
“He is playing well and we needed him to play well to win.
“Six threes and four free throws … you can’t ask for much more than that.”
Tom Daly and Nick Marshall were in good touch around the hoop, with 16 points each.
Hill said Marshall was a standout.
“I thought Nick was probably our best player,” he said.
“He came up with some big rebounds when it counted towards the end.
“He scored 16 points on only 12 shots which is good.
“He will be a very good player for us.”
Duom Dawam had another big game, but this time only scored 15 points, along with 13 rebounds.
Hill said Dawam had flown under the radar somewhat considering his lack of experience at the top level.
He said now Dawam was being noticed, but still expected big things from the rookie.
“It was tough for him because they had a lot more size and physicality,” Hill said.
“But if we can get 16 and 12 from him every week that will be good.”
Dawam still holds down top position for points in the conference, with an average of 26 per game, along with leading rebounder with 14 per game.
The return of Titus Robinson was popular and yielded six points in just 10 minutes of court time.
Having arrived in town on Friday after two weeks of quarantine in Adelaide, Robinson had little time to prepare and as he regains his match fitness he will surely make a big difference to the side.
Hill said it was simply nice to get him started.
“We had a training session Friday night then got him out there for a few minutes on Saturday and got some rust off him,” he said.
“He got to know his team mates … he knows Eze and Tom (Daly) from days gone by, but all the rest is brand new to him.
“It was good to make a start and we won while we were doing it.”
The Pioneers now face a double-header road trip to Melbourne to take on Dandenong Rangers Saturday night, before backing up Sunday against Melbourne Tigers.