Big chance to cement home finals

ON DECK: Nick Marshall will be back on deck for the Pioneers at Wulanda this weekend. Picture: FILE

By Trevor Jackson

THE Mount Gambier Pioneers men host two of their final three NBL1 South games this weekend.

The Pioneers welcome the Knox Raiders on Friday night, followed by the Melbourne Tigers on Saturday night.

The Raiders probably pose the biggest threat to the Pioneers’ plans than the Tigers, with a top-two position the major focus for the remaining minor-round games for the current ladder leaders.

If the Pioneers can achieve that goal they will be guaranteed two home finals, which would be a big advantage for any team, but particularly Mount Gambier considering its geographical positioning compared to most other clubs.

Either way, coach Richard Hill suggested the side would need to win two of its remaining three games to ensure a top-two finish.

That adds plenty of pressure to the outcome, but travel is something the Pioneers are used to.

Right through the more recent successful era for the Pioneers, they have reached and claimed championship games, despite that need to travel.

How the opponents travel is the big question, which will be answered again this weekend.

Last time the Pioneers faced the Raiders, back in Round 7 at Knox, they returned with a 22-point victory, after a dominant 32-13 first quarter.

Nick Marshall returned double-double figures of 21 points and 10 rebounds, while four other Pioneers reached double figures.

The Tigers are an unknown quantity this season to the Pioneers, but every team does pose a threat, with basketball royalty in Andrew Gaze in control.

However, with just seven wins from 19 outings the Tigers sit down in 15th place on the ladder.

As we have seen this season ladder position makes little difference and any side is capable on any given night.

Considering the recent form of the Pioneers, including the return of Marshall and Tom Daly this weekend, the Pioneers should win both games to cement their top place on the ladder as the playoffs fast approach.