Mount Gambier Pioneers vs Hobart Chargers South Conference Final Match Report
All roads led to the Icehouse on Friday night when the defending champion Mt Gambier Pioneers looked to defend their South Conference title for a record fourth time against the visiting Hobart Chargers. This was not a match for the faint hearted with plenty of heat generated on and off the court but it would be the Pioneers who would hold sway and prevail comfortably in the end by a commanding 25 points, setting up a clash with Bendigo in next week’s National Championship bout.
The Pioneers as expected came flying out of the blocks in the opening term with Erik “Eze” Burdon setting the standard for the night, drawing first blood for the home side with a trademark triple. Whilst Tiri Masunda provided the quick reply for the Chargers it would be a hot start for the Pioneers who were clearly handling the pressure of the contest better than their opponents as a double digit differential opened up at 15-5. Tyrone Lee was uncontested in the paint, Tom Daly was running the floor like clockwork and the Pioneers were proving threatening from all angles whether by interior Lee dunking or outside Burdon shooting. Back to back baskets to Zac White and Jarrad Weeks trimmed the deficit to just 6 points but they lost their momentum once more when Burdon found Desmond Simmons who converted from long range. The Pioneers answered every challenge of the Chargers whether by oppressive offence or smothering defence and it was no surprise that they found significant separation at the end of the first term with the scoreboard indicating a 25-12 domination. The home side was dominating the boards at both ends of the court and this was allowing for second chance points whilst restricting their opponents’ ability to do likewise. Erik Burdon led all scorers with 6 points at the first break whilst Desmond Simmons had 5 points, 3 rebounds and 2 steals. Jarrad Weeks was doing his best to lift his side with 5 points and 3 rebounds but was receiving little support from his teammates.
Hobart needed to score first in the second term but the story of the night could not have been scripted worse for the visitors as any sign of early momentum was snuffed out by a monstering slam from Tyrone Lee that sent the bench into raptures. Luke Jamieson began to find his feet in the second term coming off the bench to stretch the Chargers in the height department with the triple towers of Lee, Simmons and Jamieson appearing too much for the Chargers to overcome. Tiri Masunda was doing his best to keep his side in the contest, a task made easier by a full court turnover by the Pioneers that allowed the guard to score the easiest basket of the night. Coach Richard Hill was filthy with the discipline of his side whose foul trouble allowed the Chargers to stay in the game albeit from the charity stripe. Despite their charity collection the Chargers were finding it difficult to score and were forced to take low percentage shots from beyond the arc on most occasions where they shot 1/14 or 7.14% for the half. The second term was a tightly contested affair with the Pioneers winning the quarter by just a solitary point but the damage had already been done and the home side stretched out to a 14 point lead heading into the main break. Desmond Simmons was producing his best work at the best time with 11 points and 5 rebounds whilst Tyrone Lee was keeping pace with 11 points and 4 rebounds. It was a two horse race for the Chargers box score lead with Jarrad Weeks leading the way with 11 points, 3 rebounds and 2 steals, followed closely by Tiri Masunda with 9 points and 4 rebounds.
The third term has not been kind to the Pioneers this season and they needed to make it count tonight if they were genuine about remaining in the title race. The Chargers looked to draw first blood and did so when Tiri Masunda knocked down the 2 points whilst drawing the foul but he failed to convert the 3 point play which would have been the perfect start to the second half for the visitors. Tom Daly quickly answered for the Pioneers as he absorbed heavy contact and managed to convert an off balance jump shot to once again extend the Pioneers lead out to 14 points. A hot streak from Brad Hill melted the Icehouse as he converted the 3 point play before making the most of some quality ball from Tyrone Lee to rise above the Chargers defence and nail a clutch jump shot making it successive baskets for the Melbourne United native. The Chargers woes from beyond the arc were not improving and it was getting costly as they shot 3/22 for 13.64% to three quarter time. The Pioneers continued to suffer foul trouble and Jarrad Weeks was the beneficiary as he made 9-10 (90%) from the line. Brad Hill was killing the offensive hopes of the Chargers with 10 defensive rebounds whilst Tyrone Lee chipped in with 7 defensive boards to thwart the highly touted Chargers attack. The Pioneers depth was always going to be an additional battle for the Chargers to overcome and to the end of third quarter the Pioneers led this department 10-0 with 5 point contributions from Luke Jamieson and Jack Madgen. The Chargers were never saying die but despite their best efforts they could not make inroads into the Pioneers lead which extended slightly to 16 points heading into the final break. Tyrone Lee was putting on a clinic with 14 points and 8 rebounds and was finding adequate support from Desmond Simmons with 13 points and 6 rebounds, Tom Daly had 12 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists and Brad Hill had 8 points and 11 rebounds. Jarrad Weeks was the shining light for the Chargers with 20 points and 4 rebounds, Tiri Masunda had 11 points and 4 rebounds and Shane Southwell had 9 points and 6 rebounds.
The writing was on the wall and it appeared there would be little that the Chargers could do to stop the Pioneers from capturing a record fourth straight South Conference title. This became more apparent when Luke Jamieson put back a Tom Daly miss and Tyrone Lee followed up on the next offensive foray with a signature slam that blew the lead out to 20. With the fizz fading from the game nobody could have expected the fiery exchange that was to follow. Luke Jamieson and Tom Wright had been going toe to toe all night and after some push and shove between the pair, Hobart Coach Anthony Stewart got involved and heavily shoved Jamieson leading to a melee between the two teams. To the referees credit the fight did not escalate further and they were calm and calculated under the intense pressure they were faced with as they ejected Coach Stewart from the arena. The type of behaviour shown by the leader of the Hobart side was unprecedented and a disgraceful example to the multitude of young people present at the game. The punishment was not limited to those on the court as Desmond Simmons and Monyjath Makoi soon found out when they were both ejected from the game for leaving the bench. Coach Hill was livid with his team for their response to the incident and laid down the law to his players who would have to finish the game minus two of their teammates. Technical fouls were instated for both sides as the referees tried to turn the collective chaos into calm and avoid Malice at the Palace 2.0.
Tyrone Lee proved the difference between the two sides all night and he exploded in the final quarter recording 12 points and 3 rebounds to finish with 26 points, the same amount of points the Chargers needed in the end to defeat the Pioneers. Shane Southwell fought back after a tough night at the office to finish with 17 points, with 10 of those coming too late in the game for Hobart. The Chargers were unable to gain any respite from their bench who failed to score until late in the game. The Pioneers bench was led by Luke Jamieson who recorded 13 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 blocks in just 22:45 of action. Matt Sutton and Jack Madgen also played crucial roles in the match with 5 points apiece ensuring the Pioneers lead was maintained throughout the night. Captain Sutton’s points were the icing on the cake as the last two baskets for the Pioneers, a fitting way to capture a fourth successive South Conference Title. The Pioneers were able to keep the Chargers at arm’s length all night courtesy of the efforts of Tyrone Lee with 26 points, 11 rebounds and 4 assists, Tom Daly with 16 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists whilst Desmond Simmons had 13 points and 6 rebounds. The Chargers were led by Jarrad Weeks who finished with 25 points, 5 rebounds and 3 steals, Shane Southwell tallied 17 points and 6 rebounds with Tom Wright putting up 13 points and 2 assists.
The Pioneers were clinical in the clutch situation they found themselves in tonight and this confidence should augur well for their shot at a third successive National Championship in the ensuing decider next Saturday night at the Melbourne State Basketball Centre against the Bendigo Braves. The Chargers must receive accolades for the way in which they have performed all season after capturing the minor South Conference title and will be a force to be reckoned with moving forwards. The Pioneers have fought against the odds and overcome a difficult start to the season and the complexity of an away final to win through to next week’s big decider and Coach Hill and his charges deserve credit for the way in which they have applied themselves all season.
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