SPLIT results came from the Mount Gambier Pioneers women’s double-header road trip over the weekend.
They matched it with tough opposition in Round 14 of the NBL South competition, with Saturday’s game against ladder-leader Bendigo Braves being lost by three points.
That was followed by a meeting with then fourth-placed Geelong Supercats, which rewarded the Pioneers with another thrilling one-point win.
Against the Braves it was a hard-fought encounter, with Mount Gambier on top early to lead by 10 points at the first break.
However, things tightened up in the second quarter and that margin was slashed to a single point by half time.
That came down to some missed opportunities from the Pioneers, as they were outscored 20-11 for the quarter.
From there the game tightened right up and by the midpoint of the third term the lead had traded hands several times.
Every time the Braves looked to steal the lead, the Pioneers kept themselves in the battle and by the final change they held a slim one-point advantage.
In the fourth term the margin remained close, but when Bendigo shot a three with eight minutes to play, it gained a lead it would not give up.
The margin was out to nine points at one stage, before the Pioneers did what they do best.
They lifted the intensity in the final minutes and reeled the game back within reach.
With time against them, Sherrie Calleia drained a three-pointer to make it a one-point game.
A timeout was called by Bendigo and in the rush that followed, the Pioneers drew a foul in the dying seconds.
The resulting free throws handed the Braves a three-point victory, in a thrilling encounter.
Cassandra Brown was in good shooting form again and she top-scored for the Pioneers with 20 points, while dragging in nine rebounds.
Hannah Young was also solid with 19 and six respectively, while Shakera Reilly had five assists in another team-first performance.
Pioneers coach Matt Sutton said the team was disappointing to let the Bendigo game slip from their grasp.
“We were really disappointed on some of our approach to the Bendigo game,” he said.
“They are a fantastic team and it was a golden opportunity that some lack of discipline let us down in.
“I was proud of the girls to be able to fight it out, but some stuff earlier in the game put us in that position.”
However, Sutton was proud of the bounce back the following day.
Sunday’s match against Geelong showcased a similar intensity and was an arm wrestle from start to finish with the Pioneers coming from behind to claim the slimmest of victories.
Geelong held a one-point lead at quarter time, before a strong second term pushed the Supercats out to a nine-point advantage at the main break.
“From the start our mindset was pretty good,” Sutton said.
“We missed some makeable shots which enabled them to have the lead at half time.
“But the girls really stuck to the plan and we followed through to hold on for what was a pretty exciting finish.”
The Pioneers started strongly in the third and tightened things back up and with three minutes left in the quarter Young made a jump shot to level the game.
The hosts were able to push out and carry a five-point lead into the last, but the Pioneers proved again how dangerous they can be when the clock is against them.
A defensive rebound from Sherrie Calleia turned into a three-point bomb from Brown and with five minutes to play the Pioneers were in front.
From there they held on for the win, but Geelong were never out of the fight, with the margin not exceeding six.
When the Supercats sunk a two-pointer with a minute to go it was back to a one-point match, but after rebounds from either end the scoreboard remained untouched at 73-72.
“Sherrie Calleia’s game was outstanding and Haileigh (Reinoehl’s) ability to rebound the ball and compete was a huge reason we were able to get back in the contest,” Sutton said.
Calleia was vital for Mount Gambier and in a well-rounded performance she shot 18 points and made nine assists.
Haileigh Reinoehl was a rebounding machine and had 13 for the match – with nine from the defensive end.
Young was also prolific off the boards, with seven defensive rebounds and eight in total.
With three games left to play, the Pioneers remain in third place.
They will welcome consecutive home games against eighth-placed Knox Raiders and ninth-placed Ballarat Miners, with a road trip to play sixth-placed Waverly Falcons to conclude the minor rounds.