Mount Gambier Pioneers vs NW Tasmania Thunder Match Report Saturday 19 May 2018
The Pioneers season is slowly slipping away after yet another defeat, this time at the hands of a rampant North West Tasmanian opponent who dominated the Pioneers for three quarters en route to a 10-point victory.
With just eight players making the trip across Bass Strait, the Pioneers were always going to struggle on the second night of a back-to-back and were completely outplayed for the first three quarters of this contest with the Thunder’s lead blowing out to as much as 23 points early in the final term. To their credit, the Pioneers fought to the finish and a 15-0 run provided some consolation for a Pioneers side that would eventually fall by 10 points.
The Thunder roared from the beginning in this one as they piled on the first seven points of the contest, all courtesy of the Jeremiah Ingram hot hand. Tim Coenraad answered with seven points of his own as the Pioneers maintained pace with their opponents for the majority of the quarter. However, a late 12-0 run ignited the home side who would head into the first change, leading by those 12 points. Mason Bragg was drawing on all of his NBL experience with the Perth Wildcats as he led the Thunder strongly. Thankfully, the Pioneers also had NBL experience in their corner and Tim Coenraad’s time with the Illawarra Hawks was paying dividends for the defending champions once again.
Heading into the second stanza down double digits, the Pioneers needed to catch fire but all they could do was maintain pace with the Thunder as the home side sustained their quarter time advantage. Bragg was fast becoming a one man wrecking crew as he kept the Pioneers defenders guessing with slashing drives to the hoop followed by spot up threes from way downtown. The match was fast becoming a nightmare for Pioneers Coach Richard Hill but he could do little to halt the Thunder’s momentum without the services of Tom Daly, Majok Deng and Brad Hill. When Ben Richmond knocked down a trey the Thunder’s lead was 18 points and the game was as good as gone for the visiting side. Mason Bragg ended the half with 16 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists for the Thunder whilst Jeremiah Ingram compiled 11 points and 5 rebounds. For the Pioneers, Lewis Thomas had 9 points and 6 rebounds and Tim Coenraad had 9 points and 4 rebounds to half time with the home side leading by 13 points.
The Pioneers needed to salvage something from their Tasmanian trip and winning the second half would have featured prominently in the half time address of Coach Richard Hill. However, the Pioneers came out cooked in the second half and could only watch as the Thunder grew their lead through the dynamic play of Ingram and Bragg who made a mockery of the Pioneers defence. Coenraad and Thomas did what they could to keep the Pioneers afloat but they could not draw close to the Thunder whose 12-point quarter time advantage was proving a mountain to overcome. A late drive to the basket by Ben Richmond saw the Thunder’s lead stretch to 19 points and with one quarter to play it would take a miracle to get the Pioneers back in the contest.
As he had done all night, Mason Bragg provided the spark to the Thunder’s cause to open the final term, scoring the first four points of the quarter as the Thunder lead ballooned to 23 points. The Pioneers could have easily thrown in the towel but they flexed their championship muscle and fought the match out to the end. When Erik Burdon nailed another customary three-point bomb, the Pioneers were on a 15-0 run and had every chance of pulling off a massive upset. With just 1:04 minutes on the clock, Tim Coenraad sunk a layup and the Pioneers were within four points of the lead. But it would be all North West Tasmania in the final minute as they scored six unanswered points to run out victors by 10 points.
The Thunder were led by Mason Bragg who finished with 35 points, 11 rebounds and 5 assists whilst Jeremiah Ingram finished with 19 points and 9 rebounds. Tim Coenraad finished with 21 points, 9 rebounds and 3 assists for the Pioneers and was well supported by Lewis Thomas with 20 points and 14 rebounds.
Pioneers Coach Richard Hill was scathing in his post-game assessment stating that “we came out flat against the Thunder and could not deal with their intense defence”. “Down by 23 points, we made a late change to get within four points with about 40 seconds to play. Unfortunately, a couple of silly mistakes put paid to our chances down the stretch”. “Lewis Thomas had another great game for us and Kane de Wit in his 100th game gave us great spark off the bench”. “We simply had no answer for Mason Bragg who dominated the game on both sides of the ball”.
The Pioneers now return home with an unsavoury 3 wins and 5 losses on the season and must win against Canberra next Friday night at the Ice House to keep their playoff chances alive. The Thunder will be looking to continue their good form when they face off against Ballarat next Saturday night.