Mount Gambier Pioneers vs Bendigo Braves Match Preview – Saturday 13th May 2017
All roads lead to Bendigo this weekend as the Mount Gambier Pioneers make the journey to face their bitter rivals, the Braves on their home court. The Pioneers will be looking to stretch their unbeaten start to 2017 to nine straight games, but they will not have it their own way and will have to fight hard against an opponent that always poses a major challenge.
Despite their rivalry, the Pioneers admire what the Braves bring to the court, with Pioneers Coach Richard Hill stating that “We have enormous respect for Bendigo and what they have achieved. Their roster is very talented and we will need to be at our best to combat them”. In their last meeting in Round 2, the Pioneers were forced to play hard-nosed four quarter basketball to overcome the Braves and they will be a much tougher opponent in the natural surroundings.
The Pioneers will require a concerted team effort if they are going to effectively dismantle the Braves unit, as they have quality across all positions. Coach Hill knows he has a tough task ahead of him because “Starks is a scorer of note, Aiken provides impact on both ends of the floor, Doyle is a dynamic point guard and Andronicos has been their most consistent player”. Hill trusts his formula and says that his side “will be looking to play typical Pioneers basketball” which we all know means there will be no “I” present on Saturday night, it will all be about the team approach.
The Braves appear to be a different side to that of last season, with the loss of Jeremy Kendle and Damian Johnson being felt across the floor so far in their 2017 campaign. Sitting in fifth place in the South Conference with a 4-6 record is not where they want to be and you can expect they will come out breathing fire and brimstone as they look to level their season series with the Pioneers and go on a winning streak of their own.
Look for Dyami Starks to provide most of the scoring for the Braves with his season average of 23.7ppg good enough for second highest scoring average in the league to date. Tom Daly will be given the duty of guarding Starks for the majority of the evening and will need to lock down on him on the defensive end to halt the Braves’ offensive momentum.
CJ Aiken played his first game with the Braves last time these two sides met and impressed even with his brief exposure to the Braves playbook. Now that he has had time to adjust to his new team environment, look for Aiken to launch into full beast mode at both ends of the court and combine with Matt Andronicus to provide a stern test to the Pioneers triple towers of Daniel Alexander, Luke Jamieson and John Jones. Coach Hill is wary of the front court threat posed by the Braves, stating that “they have great size in the front court and Daniel Luke and John will need to be at their best, both on defence and the boards” if we are going to prevail.
This match will hinge largely on defence as has been the case in recent weeks where an improved Pioneers defensive structure was able to curtail the usually dynamic offensive systems of Nunawading and Sandringham. Coach Hill was pleased with the improvement his side has shown on the defensive end in recent times and stressed the importance of quality defence in generating desired results, stating that “our defence was much improved last weekend and more of the same will give us an opportunity to win on the road again”. CJ Aiken is currently averaging 17.3 ppg and 11.9rpg which when combined with Matt Andronicus’ figures of 11.3ppg and 7.0rpg makes for a challenging night for the Pioneers’ big men. Whilst the Pioneers have an additional tall that they can use off the bench, they will need to get more out of John Jones and Luke Jamieson who both struggled last week, combining for 6 points and 9 rebounds against Sandringham and 9 points and 12 rebounds against Nunawading. Both players would fit into any starting five in the competition apart from the Pioneers who have the luxury of three quality big men on their roster. Daniel Alexander has locked down his starting position well and truly but Jones and Jamieson appear to be battling it out on a week-by-week basis for a starting role. Inconsistent minutes can be the catalyst for inconsistent performance as has been shown in recent weeks and Coach Hill may have to settle on a regular starting five if the inconsistent minutes continue to impact on the roles and the confidence of Jamieson and Jones.
The Braves and Pioneers have a long history as bitter rivals and Saturday night will provide the perfect backdrop for another cagey encounter. In yet another rematch of last year’s Championship Final, the Pioneers will face the ultimate litmus test against a vengeful Braves opponent on their home floor and will have to put in four quarters of quality basketball to get the job done. The Pioneers should prove a bridge too far for the Braves on Saturday night as they have the depth and quality across the floor to overcome a strong Braves lineup