Mount Gambier Pioneers vs Sandringham Sabres Match Preview Report Friday 2nd June 2017
The Pioneers and Sabres square off for round two of their season series on Friday night at the Icehouse with the home side looking to retain their top billing in the Eastern Conference. The Sabres come to town on the back of two impressive victories including a nail biting one point win over Dandenong and a blowout 30 point win over the Melbourne Tigers in the second match of their Round 9 back-to-back set.
Pioneers Coach Richard Hill is aware of the danger the Sabres pose, stating that “Sandringham provide us with a new challenge on Friday night. They are a team with most bases covered, good imports at their 4 and 5 spots an NBL player at the three and a very experienced 300 NBL game point guard is a very dangerous combination and they are coming off an impressive double win weekend”.
The Pioneers last faced Sandringham on their home court in Round 6, a match that Hill recalls well, stating that “we met them a month ago on their court and shook them off in the end to win by 8 after leading by 1 with a few minutes remaining”. Since that match the Sabres have only improved and despite their current 6-6 record, they are playing inspired basketball, led by star import Jerry Evans with season averages of 17.1 ppg and 7.4 rpg, whilst the wing play of Igor Hadziomerovic (14.5 ppg and 6.5 rpg) and big man Ethan O’Day (14.1 ppg and 7.7 rpg) have turned the Sabres season around after a dismal 1-4 start.
This match is set to be a classic encounter given the numerous close matchups across the floor. Pioneers Coach Richard Hill agrees, stating that “the matchups are very interesting, Daniel Alexander v Jerry Evans, Brad Hill v Igor Hadziomerovic and Tom Daly v Nathan Crosswell are three outstanding high level clashes”. Coach Hill will once again rely on the unselfish and team focused approach of his side, reiterating that “as is always the case we will be trusting our unselfishness and system together with solid team defence to get the job done”.
The Pioneers need their supporting cast to provide respite for their starting lineup, particularly Jack Madgen and Kane DeWit who have shown they are able to match it with any opponent when given the opportunity. These two guards have flourished this season and hold the key to the Pioneers making another deep run into September. Bench points are a rare commodity in the SEABL and the Pioneers are often league leaders in this category, however the Pioneers bench was found wanting against Kilsyth who got 16 points out of Jamie Ahale compared to just nine points from the entire Pioneers bench.
Daniel Alexander is the clear stand out for the Pioneers in the front court so far this season and was once again selected in the SEABL Team of the Week for his 21 points and 14 rebounds against Kilsyth. But he cannot do it alone week after week and Coach Hill will be looking for more impact from Luke Jamieson (8.9 ppg and 7.2 rpg) and John Jones (5.8 ppg and 4.5 rpg) who have been sharing the starting role at the five spot all season.
Last time these two sides met, Jerry Evans put on a masterclass in the front court, compiling 28 points and 13 rebounds with Alexander (17 points and 7 rebounds) receiving little support from Jamieson (0 points and 6 rebounds) or Jones (6 points and 3 rebounds). Should a similar outcome unfold, the Sabres would be favourites to take this one out given their improvement across their other positions.
But stopping Evans will not be the Pioneers primary objective as the Sabres have match winners across the court. Ethan O’Day is one of the biggest improvers in the competition with Jamieson and Jones facing an uphill battle to limit the Sabres’ prodigy on the interior. Nathan Crosswell will draw on his 300+ games of NBL experience when he squares off against Pioneers Captain Tom Daly, with Daly looking to test the mileage left in the legs of the 37 year old veteran. Despite his age, Crosswell is still averaging 8.8 ppg and 5.5 apg so far this season, but it is his wealth of experience which cannot be quantified by numbers that will have the biggest impact on his teammates and the contest.
Stopping Igor Hadziomerovic will be Brad Hill’s primary objective with the Pioneers’ wing looking to run his opposite number off the three point line where he is shooting 37.8% this season for a career average of 54.1% from distance. Limiting the triple threat will be a team effort and Hill will need full support from his teammates if the Pioneers are going to get the job done.
Home court advantage is massive for the Pioneers heading into this one, with the home crowd surely enough to will the Pioneers to victory. But they will not have it all their own way and will be made to fight it out to the end. The Pioneers will need to be vigilant throughout the contest and support one another on both ends of the floor because the Sabres are a far different proposition second time around. Coach Hill is aware of this stating that “on what I have seen they are much improved, and we will need to be on our game”. There is no denying the importance of this clash for both teams, with the Pioneers looking to get breathing space over Nunawading at the top of the East whilst the Sabres are looking for a winning record to kick start the second half of their 2017 campaign.