Mount Gambier Pioneers vs Canberra Gunners Match Report Friday 25 May 2018
The Mount Gambier Pioneers returned to form in devastating fashion on Friday night when they accounted for the visiting Canberra Gunners by a jaw dropping 45 points. With the return of team captain Tom Daly to the floor and the fresh ink still drying on Sam McDaniel’s contract, the Pioneers team chemistry did not take long to gel as they exploded on offence and battled hard all night on defence. The victory was a welcome return to form for the Pioneers after a tumultuous start to their title defence.
The Pioneers came into the contest with a 3-5 record, staring down the barrel of the possibility of missing the post-season for the first time since 2012 and were desperate to right their ship against a cellar dwelling Canberra opponent. The recent rust in the Pioneers’ game showed early as they kept the home crowd on their feet for the best part of two minutes until Tom Daly dropped a three-point bomb to get the Pioneers going. Ben Allen returned to the familiar surrounds of the Ice House once more and was proving a handful for his former side as he continued to maul his opponents inside the paint. Luke Jamieson was also playing against his former side, the Gunners and his battle with Allen was one to savour with both players not giving an inch in the low post. It was a case of Jamieson by name, jam by nature when number six threw down a thunderous dunk that fuelled a 10-0 Pioneers run and required a timeout for the Gunners. The run from the Pioneers gave them all the momentum and heading into the first change, the Pioneers had stretched out to a double-digit lead 23-13.
Sam McDaniel gave his side the best possible start to the second term when he nailed a tough jump shot before filling the box score with a block, rebound and assist in the space of 26 seconds. Tom Daly was relishing his return to the floor with his direct dime dropping and driving runs to the hoop breaking down the Gunners defence time and again. The Pioneers ball movement was a highlight of their first half play as they began to move the ball more quickly and find the open shot with such frequency you could have been mistaken that you were watching the San Antonio Spurs in full flight. The second term produced another double-digit differential and the game was as good as over at half time with the Pioneers up by 21 points. Whilst Allen was getting some help from Daniel Joyce and Eric Gaff it wasn’t anywhere near enough to thwart a Pioneers team effort that was firing on all cylinders. To half time, Tom Daly led all scorers with 14 points and 6 assists whilst Sam McDaniel had 10 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists. Ben Allen led the scoring for the Gunners with 9 points and 2 rebounds and Eric Gaff had 8 points and 5 rebounds.
The Pioneers continued their good work in the third term as they outscored their opponents by 38-21 as points in the paint became all too easy for the home side. Dunks and driving layups were the order of the third term for the Pioneers with the front court of Thomas, Jamieson and McDaniel feasting on a relatively inexperienced Gunners forward setup. The biggest thorn in the Gunners side was proving to be new signing Sam McDaniel who despite coming off the bench in his debut appearance for the Pioneers was lighting it up from three. McDaniel hit four three-pointers in the third term alone, including three in less than two minutes to set up a monstrous 38-point lead for the Pioneers heading into the final term.
The Pioneers could have cruised to the finish line but they wanted to send a statement to the critics who have written off their season and finished in top gear right to the very end with a 27-20 final term providing them with a percentage boosting win. Ben Allen was doing his best to save face for his side but just like Michael Jordan against the Detroit Pistons in the late 1980’s, Allen needed help but none was forthcoming. As Coach Richard Hill emptied his bench, the young talent of the Pioneers did not let up with the likes of Chol Luk, Lachie Hunter, Dellon Brown and Josh Murphy all holding their own late in the game. A rare dunk by Dellon Brown sent the crowd into raptures before Lachie Hunter put the icing on the cake for the Pioneers with the final shot of the night as the home side prevailed by a commanding 45 points. Five Pioneers players scored in double digits with Lewis Thomas leading the way with 24 points and 12 rebounds, Sam McDaniel had 23 points and 10 rebounds, Erik Burdon had 20 points and 7 assists and Tom Daly had 19 points, 8 assists and 3 rebounds. For the Gunners, Ben Allen had 22 points, 5 assists and 4 rebounds and Daniel Joyce had 17 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists.
In his post-match review, Pioneers Coach Richard Hill was relieved stating that “it was great to be back in the winner’s circle after a difficult few weeks. We jumped out of the blocks pretty well with Tom Daly back on court, attacking the rim and setting the tone for his teammates”. “Lewis Thomas continued his great form and he was a huge factor at both ends of the floor”. “Our solid defence and speed of play eventually became too much for the Gunners”. “Sam McDaniel made a great debut for us slotting into his role, defending very well and shooting the ball at a high level”.
The Pioneers will look to continue their good form when they face off against Dandenong next Friday night at home, a game that Coach Hill expects to be “a much tougher challenge”. The Gunners will be looking to salvage their season when they meet Diamond Valley tomorrow night.