Pioneers need to step up

TOUGH: Christian Peevy will need to be at his best tonight as the Pioneers face the Keilor Thunder. Pictures: JAMES MURPHY

By Trevor Jackson

THE Mount Gambier Pioneers men face a tough test tonight when they head to Melbourne to face the Keilor Thunder.

The NBL1 South clash will be an important game for the Pioneers, who come off a pair of losses to Geelong and Eltham.

Keilor sits down in sixth position, three below Mount Gambier, with both having won nine games for the season.

Keilor has one extra loss, having played one more game.

Last time the two sides faced off, the Pioneers went down by 13 points at Wulanda and will want to do better this time to reverse the result.

That game saw Nick Marshall top the list with 35 points, along with nine rebounds, but Akech Aliir was the only other Pioneers to reach double figures, with 10 points and 12 rebounds to his name.

For the Thunder, all starters plus a bench player reached double figures as they beat the Pioneers at their own game – sharing the ball around in offence.

So far the Pioneers have been in impressive form, but will be tested as the season heads deep into the second round of matches.

It all comes in a hurry too, with a heap of games to be completed by early July.

There is no room for complacency or poor play, with every game a tough encounter.

Coach Richard Hill reflected on the last couple of games and was under no illusions about how tough the competition has been.

“We are hopeful we can play better than what we have,” he said.

“We played well against Eltham, except for a bad last minute.

“We really needed to win that game.

“Against Geelong we shot poorly.

“When you miss shots it magnifies everything else and you can look pretty average, but if you knock down some shots it all changes.

“We will try to get ourselves organised and see if we can be a bit better.”

Hill was not making excuses, but said if you want to be a good team you have to win when you don’t shoot well.

Another loss could be a big issue, with the fixture packed for the Pioneers in the coming weeks.

“We have one game this week then two doubles in a row,” Hill said.

“One double in Melbourne and another double at home.

“The regular season is all over in six weeks, so we have to be better.”

It will simply take a huge effort to beat the Thunder on their home court, but if the Pioneers play well, they can certainly get the job done.