South Conference Final Preview

Mount Gambier Pioneers vs Hobart Chargers- South Conference Final Preview Report

The Pioneers face a stern test at home this Friday night when they take on a fired up Hobart Chargers side looking to exact revenge for their recent loss in the South Conference Semi Final a fortnight ago. The Pioneers suffered defeat in both regular season fixtures they played against the Tasmanian side but were able to overcome a hostile Hobart crowd and produce some of their finest play of the season to emerge 14 point victors and secure the all-important home court advantage for the South Conference Final.

With Brad Hill on the sidelines it was a backs to the wall scenario for the Pioneers but Captain Matt Sutton turned back the clock and filled the void as he caught fire from beyond the arc with 4 triples at 57.1% for 16 points. The Pioneers bench aced the test they were handed with on the night with all players contributing to the final result. Desmond Simmons led the way with 21 points at 66.7% and added 8 rebounds whilst Erik Burdon put up 14 points and 5 assists, Tyrone Lee had 11 points and 8 rebounds and Tom Daly recorded an entry-level double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

With just 8 players making the trip south, Coach Hill was faced with a difficult assignment against a side with 11 players and home court advantage. But as always Hill was unphased by the challenge. The suffocating zone defence that he drew up was executed effectively with the stifle towers of Tyrone Lee and Desmond Simmons shutting down Shane Southwell and Zac White whilst the defensive pressure of the Pioneers’ backcourt limited the ball movement of floor generals Jarrad Weeks and Tom Wright.

The Chargers were able to bounce back last weekend in the Preliminary Final against Albury/Wodonga where they exercised their minor premiership muscle and overpowered the visitors by a commanding 31 points led by Tom Wright with 23 points and 4 assists. The Chargers were never headed during the match and eased to a comfortable victory that would have renewed much needed confidence heading into this weekend’s cut throat South Conference Final on foreign floorboards.

The Pioneers will need to reenact their approach from a fortnight ago if they are to capture their third successive South Conference Championship. Team first play is the Pioneers major strength and when they are producing the desired results they do so with each player contributing to the team cause. There is very little to separate the Pioneers starting lineup from the Chargers starting five so the end result will likely come down to the depth of each side and the amount of bench points that each side can generate.

Luke Jamieson is undoubtedly the key for the Pioneers, as the sixth man he must stand up and be counted whenever he is called upon and should Tyrone Lee face foul trouble his performance may significantly influence the final result. Erik Burdon’s three point shooting has the ability to turn a game on its head and the home side will be looking for “Eze” to fill it up from beyond the arc after shooting 0/4 from long range against Hobart a fortnight ago.  The Pioneers will be sweating on the fitness of Brad Hill whose NBL experience and 150+ SEABL matches are invaluable to his side particularly in the clutch environment of an elimination final. Should Hill not come up expect Matt Sutton to receive Hill’s minutes once more and for Jack Madgen to have an increased role off the bench.

Hobart showed why they finished top of the South Conference at the end of the regular season last week when they demolished Albury/Wodonga by 31 points at home. Despite the threat of going out in straight sets, the Chargers played like the underdogs and were ice cold under pressure. Tom Wright regained his scoring touch, Jarrad Weeks ran the floor effectively as he had done throughout the regular season and support inside the paint was provided by Shane Southwell and Zac White all night long. If the Chargers are to emerge as South Conference Champions they will need to first shutdown the Pioneers backcourt in Brad Hill, Tom Daly and Erik Burdon. This trio has a wealth of experience playing together and they formulate each of the Pioneers plays with great precision. The quality ball that they provide the Pioneers frontcourt with is telling and it will take strict Chargers defence to disrupt their tempo. The Chargers will also need career defining games from both Shane Southwell and Zac White if they are to upset the reigning champions. The last time the two sides met in the Semi Final, Southwell dominated proceedings with 15 points and 11 rebounds but he received no support from his fellow bigs with Zac White putting up just 4 points on 28.6% shooting with 3 rebounds. The battle between Tom Daly and Jarrad Weeks will be the matchup of the night with both players coming off stellar seasons marshalling premium ball to their teammates. The battle of the point guards is expected to be tight throughout with the winner of this matchup strongly influencing the final result.

Coach Hill is renowned for instructing his teams to attack the post-season and leave everything out on the court, a formula that has worked for him for decades and this match will be no different. Expect the Pioneers to fly out of the blocks and put early scoreboard pressure on their opponents in a bid to have them playing catch up all night long.  A chance at greatness awaits the victor who will take on the winner of the East Conference Final between Nunawading and Bendigo in the National Championship Final in Melbourne on September 10.