Mount Gambier Pioneers vs Bendigo Braves Report Friday 27 April 2018
The stage was set for an epic encounter on Friday night at the Icehouse when an undermanned Pioneers line-up faced off against a dangerous Bendigo opponent. The Braves entered hostile territory with a clean sheet to start the season and the added incentive of the match being the 400th time Braves’ stalwart, Chris Hogan suited up in the SEABL. The Pioneers were coming off an impressive pair of home victories but entered the match significantly undermanned due to injuries to Brad Hill, Tom Daly and new signing Majok Deng.
Despite heading into the match underdone due to illness during the week, Lewis Thomas got the Pioneers off to a flying start sinking the first triple of the contest on the first shot of the night. Ray Turner provided the swift reply for the visitors and was wreaking havoc in the paint in the early going as he made the most of an undersized Pioneers line-up. The game descended into a dogfight as both sides looked to gain early momentum with the quarter time score line of 19-17 in favour of the Braves proof of the tight tussle that ensued early.
Milestone man, Chris Hogan gave his side the best possible start to the second quarter when he drained a long-range effort and he would go on to dominate the term putting up 9 of his 12 points for the night in the second stanza. Lewis Thomas was providing the most resistance on the offensive end for the Pioneers but he needed support and unfortunately the most likely scoring option, Erik Burdon struggled with his shot and could only muster three points on 1/8 (12.5%) shooting to half time. Mount Gambier’s Chol Luk sent the crowd into raptures when he pulled off a stunning “Euro Step” layup but there was little else to cheer about for the home fans as the Pioneers remained locked into a scrap, trailing by two points at the half.
The Pioneers were clearly struggling to contain the Braves big men and it showed in the box score with Ray Turner dominating the contest with a first half double double of 10 points and 12 rebounds. Lewis Thomas was doing his best to contain Turner and keep the Pioneers in the game with an impressive 14 points and 6 rebounds at the half. The Pioneers did well to contain 2016 MVP Jeremy Kendle to just 8 points, 2 rebounds and 2 assists in the first half thanks largely to the work of Kane DeWit with Pioneers Coach Richard Hill stating that “DeWit’s continued evolvement and his efforts in containing Kendle was the individual highlight for us”. However, Ray Turner was more than making up for Kendle’s off night with Coach Hill frustrated that his side “had no answer for Turner with his size and athleticism at both ends of the floor being huge for the Braves”.
Kane DeWit gave the Pioneers the best possible start to the second half when he levelled proceedings with a driving layup. However, the Braves appeared to have all the answers and continued to make their presence felt inside. The Pioneers continued to give up offensive rebounds and in turn second chance points, a statistic that would prove to be their achilles heel in the end with a final differential of 23-10 in Bendigo’s favour. Just when the Pioneers thought they had Kendle and Turner under wraps, up popped Daniel Hansen whose back to back three-point daggers sunk the home side’s spirit. Just as the Braves looked like they would head in to the final quarter with a handy seven-point advantage, Brad Rathjen ran the inbounds play with just 4.7 seconds left on the clock and managed to beat the buzzer with his long-range effort cutting Bendigo’s lead to four points and giving the home side much needed momentum.
Despite holding sway for the majority of the night it was going to take a miracle for the Pioneers to hold the Braves out but when Erik Burdon sunk a step back jump shot, the Pioneers hopes lifted. However, the Braves would then go on a 16-2 run and blow the game wide open as they took what appeared to be an unassailable 16-point advantage. The Pioneers countered with a 9-4 run of their own but they could not bridge the deficit thanks largely due to the efforts of Ray Turner who piled on the Pioneers pain with an 11 point and 10 rebound final term, taking his final tally to an astonishing 25 points and 25 rebounds on the night. Despite coming into the clash under the weather, Lewis Thomas managed to keep his side in the contest for the majority of the night with 22 points and 11 rebounds but the lack of support from his teammates was telling in the end. The Braves coasted to victory in the end with the final margin 89-75 a rare loss for the Pioneers at home. In review, Pioneers Coach Richard Hill “was very happy with the effort levels of our players but our inability to execute under pressure from Bendigo let us down”. “I felt we took some ill – advised threes in the first quarter and never found a rhythm shooting the ball from then on” stated Hill.
Bendigo will be looking to keep their perfect start to the 2018 season alive when they host Albury-Wodonga on Sunday whilst the Pioneers will look to make amends against Frankston next Saturday night.