Mount Gambier Pioneers vs Geelong Supercats Match Preview Saturday 17th June
The battle for East Conference supremacy heats up this weekend with the top ranked Pioneers taking on the third placed Geelong Supercats at their house in the match of the round. Both sides would have enjoyed a week’s break over the long weekend and will both be ready and raring to go come tip off on Saturday night.
Both sides are coming off a confidence building three game winning streak and the outcome of this match could well determine who finishes in the top two placings in the East Conference and secures home court advantage in the playoffs. According to Pioneers Coach Richard Hill, his “group is really looking forward to the challenge because Geelong in Geelong is one of the sternest tests in the SEABL”.
The Pioneers were less than impressive against an undermanned Sandringham outfit in their last outing and although they cruised to a 15-point victory they were made to work every step of the way. Daniel Alexander has been the centre of MVP talks during the week and the Pioneers will be banking on a MVP type performance this week if the visitors are going to get the job done. Brad Hill’s return to form in recent weeks has been pleasing and Pioneers fans will be hoping he continues to shoot the hot hand with a scintillating 61.5% shooting in his last outing now considered the benchmark for future performances.
Tom Daly has been the one constant for the Pioneers this season with his gaudy stats of 17.5ppg, 4.0rpg and 4.8apg proof that the Pioneers captain is truly leading from the front. That consistency will need to continue if the Pioneers are going to get the job done because DeMarcus Gatlin looms large as his opposite number with his stats of 19.9ppg, 8.3rpg and 3.7apg a daunting prospect. Gatlin has been devastating at both ends of the court so far this season and the Pioneers will need all the help they can get because the former Sam Houston State University talent has the ability to demolish his opposition in a heartbeat.
Nathan Herbert provides an additional threat to the visiting Pioneers, with the veteran capable of filling it up from either the two or the three position and he will need to be closely attended to by Erik Burdon, Brad Hill and company for the duration of the evening. Herbert has the ability to light it up from long range with a three-point shooting percentage of 42.7% so far this season, a major concern for the Pioneers defence. The Pioneers have been well-served by their own three-point specialist in recent weeks with Erik Burdon making it look Eze with his average of 41.3% from distance proving pivotal to the Pioneers success. It is one thing to have the range but it is another thing to have the clutch shot and Burdon has both, proving time and again that he can make the shot that is needed to influence the contest.
Coach Hill is aware of the threat that Herbert and Gatlin pose, stating that “Herbert and Gatlin are combining for 40ppg and hurt us there last season, our perimeter defence will need to be at its best”.
The battle of the bigs will be a major influence on the contest with Daniel Alexander facing off against Ma’alo Hicks and Luke Jamieson and John Jones sharing the minutes at the five against star import Eric Gaff. Alexander has been the backbone of the Pioneers success so far this season, with his two-way play and epic dunking a sight to behold for Pioneers fans. But he will not have it all his own way as Hicks is averaging a near double-double (10.3ppg and 9.5rpg) for the season with a high of 18 boards against the Sabres in round five, proof of his potential. The five position has been concerning for the Pioneers so far this season with neither Jamieson or Jones able to stake a claim on starting minutes. It appears that Coach Hill is leaning towards Jamieson given the 32 minutes he played against the Sabres in the last outing but this could quickly change should a matchup require a shift in the starting lineup. On paper, Jamieson clearly has better numbers than Gaff so far this season but as we know matches are won on the court and not in previous box scores. If Jones can provide adequate cover off the bench and perform a quality rim-protecting role, the Pioneers will be in good shape heading towards the finish line.
Coach Hill is aware of the danger posed by the Supercats, stating, “I believe three of the best teams in the competition are in the East Conference and Geelong is one of those. Head to head is crucial to end of year standings”. Should the Pioneers want to influence those end of year standings it all starts with a quality performance on Saturday night. There is so much more than just the W on the line in this one, with the victor taking the lead in a season series that could very well shape the backdrop of the East Conference Final.