Mount Gambier Pioneers vs Nunawading Spectres Semi Final Match Preview Friday 11 August
The stage is set for another epic chapter to be written in the Mount Gambier vs Nunawading story this Friday night at the Ice House as the top two sides in the East Conference battle it out for the right to host the East Conference Final in two weeks’ time.
The Pioneers split their two-game road trip last weekend to finish with an imposing 21-3 win/loss season record which included an undefeated season on their home deck. The Pioneers also won the season series against the Spectres 2-0, winning by three points on the road in round six before prevailing by a more commanding 11 points at home in round 14. Despite these two losses, both games were decided late in the game and the Spectres boast a strong lineup that will test a Pioneers lineup that is arguably the deepest in the league.
Simon Conn was recently crowned as the 2017 SEABL season MVP, beating a host of worthy contenders including a likely opponent on Friday night in Daniel Alexander. Announcing the season MVP before the post-season has played out didn’t work so well in the NBA in 1995 when Hakeem Olajuwon dominated newly crowned MVP David Robinson in the playoffs and Pioneers fans will be hoping that missing out on the league’s highest honour will provide similar motivation for Alexander.
Nunawading are coming off successive victories, albeit against Canberra and Melbourne who both finished second last in their respective conferences. At the business end of the season you want to be playing in a finals-like atmosphere so it will be interesting to see how the Spectres handle the heat that will be applied to them on Friday night. The Pioneers have their own concerns after enduring a tough schedule but Pioneers coach Richard Hill believes his side is “well prepared after seven games in 21 days”. The Pioneers bench did get a solid workout in the final rounds of the season so the starting lineup should be fresh and ready to fire come tip-off.
Size, shooting and experience are the Spectres key strengths according to Pioneers Coach Richard Hill who states “Nunawading is a tough veteran unit, with great size and shooting ability”. With Simon Conn winning the 2017 MVP Award, the Spectres now have “Shane McDonald and Simon Conn who are now both MVP’s and they have been the best one-two punch in the competition for at least six years” states Hill. Hill believes his side will “need to slow either McDonald or Conn if we want to be successful”. McDonald once again led the SEABL in assists with 8.2 apg and shutting down his dime dishing domination must be the Pioneers’ primary objective. Tom Daly’s role has never been more important because if he can shut down McDonald it will limit the amount of quality ball that Conn and Dain Swetalla receive which will effectively dismantle the Spectres offence.
With both sides boasting a strong front court, the rebounding battle will be pivotal in deciding the outcome of this contest. Coach Hill agrees, stating that “rebounding will be key and we will need to be at our best on the boards to compete with the size and versatility of the Spectres”. Luke Jamieson (11.5ppg, 7.4 rpg) and Daniel Alexander (19.1 ppg, 9.4 rpg) have been brutal in the paint this season for the Pioneers whilst John Jones (5.6 ppg, 4.3 rpg) has provided solid rim protection off the bench. The Spectres on the other hand have Simon Conn (20.8 ppg, 9.1 rpg) and Dain Swetalla (15.5 ppg, 8.3 rpg) who have lit the SEABL up all season and they won’t be intimidated by playing in enemy territory. With both sides so evenly matched at the four and the five positions, the battle of the boards could very well be decided at the wing position where the Pioneers hold the advantage given Brad Hill’s 6.9 rpg this season compared to his opposing number in Andrew Steel who has managed 4.6 rpg in 2017.
With a week’s break and home court advantage in the East Conference Final on the line, both sides will leave everything out on the court in what promises to be one of the matches of the season. The rivalry between these two sides is always intense and you can be guaranteed that they will put on a show to remember. So, make sure to get to your seats early because you will not want to miss a second of this colossal encounter!