Pioneers men claim back-to-back wins on the road

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Michael Harris put in two strong performances on the Pioneers' road trip last weekend. Pictures: FILE.

By Lachlan Onions

THE Mount Gambier Pioneers men’s team claimed two crucial wins on the road last weekend.

Pioneers coach Richard Hill was pleased with the performance across both games.

“We were really over the moon with how we played on the weekend,” he said.

“We had eight really good quarters on the weekend.

“It was an excellent result, it turned our season around a bit.”

The Pioneers started their road trip with a difficult clash against the in-form Bendigo Braves.

Mount Gambier started strongly and led by eight points with just one minute left in the first quarter.

“We got off to a good start which is always important on the road,” Hill said.

However, the Braves pulled the margin back to just three points at quarter time.

The second term was an arm wrestle and the hosts pulled the lead back to just one point at the main break.

It was much of the same in the third quarter, as neither side were able to take control in the third quarter but Bendigo did head into the final quarter with a two-point lead.

With just under five minutes left in the game, Clevon Brown scored a layup to bring the Pioneers level.

Mount Gambier recorded consecutive stops on the defensive end and Tom Kubank gave the visitors the lead with a three-pointer, to make the score 84-81 with three-and-a-half minutes left.

Kuany Kuany responded with a two-pointer for the home team but Michael Harris hit back with a three to make it a two-possession game.

However, the Braves fought back and reduced the margin to just one point with 90 seconds on the clock.

With the pressure on, neither side could score from the field but the Pioneers eventually extended their lead as the home side was forced to foul and sent Harris and Tom Daly to the line, where they both scored to seal a 91-86 win.

“We won the last minute with a couple of great rebounds and defensive stops,” Hill said.

It was a strong team performance from Mount Gambier, as it had five players score 10 or more points in the game.

“We had contributions across the board,” Hill said.

Harris led the points for the Pioneers with 23 and also recorded 10 rebounds.

Brown also recorded a double-double with 13 points and 10 boards in Saturday night’s clash.

“Clevon was very good from a defensive and rebounding point of view and chipped in with some offense,” Hill said.

The Pioneers then took on the Geelong Supercats on Sunday, a side who defeated the Pioneers at the Icehouse earlier this season.

The Supercats took control of the game early with a 12-point scoring run in the first quarter and led by nine points at the first break.

Geelong remained in control throughout the second term and stretched its lead out to 13 points with four minutes left in the half.

“I didn’t feel like we were out of it by any stretch and nor did the players,” Hill said.

“We just persisted with our plan and when we went in at halftime, we thought we could win the game.”

Mount Gambier scored 10 consecutive points in he late stages of the first half and trailed by just six points at the main break..

The Pioneers fired out of the blocks early in the second half and briefly took the lead thanks to a layup from Jordan Rawls.

However, the Supercats immediately responded and maintained the lead for the rest of the quarter.

Mount Gambier started the final term much like the third and took the lead early and did not look back as it claimed a six-point win over Geelong.

“We lost Tom Kubank very early in the game, Jordan Rawls had four fouls very early and Tom Daly pulled his hamstring, so to be able to back up on someone else’s home court against a quality team, is about as good as it gets,” Hill said.

“It was a really good and gutsy win.”

Harris backed up his strong performance on Saturday, with 32 points against the Supercats.

His efforts were enough for him to claim the NBL1 South Men’s player of the week with 27.5 points per game and seven rebounds per game.

Nick Marshall was consistent across both games and scored 25 points against Geelong.

He was also strong on the defensive end with a game-high five steals.

“Nick Marshall and Michael Harris in that game were huge,” Hill said.

“Kane de Wit played his best game for the year, which is very encouraging.

“It doesn’t show up much in the box score but we were plus 16 with him on the court, which is significant.”

With just three games left in the season, the Pioneers are second on the ladder with 14 wins.

Mount Gambier will return to the Icehouse on Saturday, when it takes on the Knox Raiders.

“Knox are a good team, their credentials are really high,” Hill said.

“Their best is very good.”