Mount Gambier Pioneers vs Nunawading Spectres Match Report- Thursday 28 June 2018
It was a case of David versus Goliath on a rare Thursday night at the Ice House with the 12th placed Pioneers taking on the second placed Nunawading Spectres. The Pioneers overcame the odds to take down their heavyweight opponents and kept their faint playoffs hopes alive as they pulled out their finest home win of the season, eventually prevailing by 10 points.
The Pioneers returned home after a season saving victory on the road against Ballarat and were looking to fly out of the blocks and keep their engine running at full steam in what was a must win encounter. Luke Jamieson certainly provided the play to get the party started when his thunderous dunk got the home side on the board, but it would be the Spectres who would enjoy the better run in the opening term. The Spectres early offensive run was fuelled entirely by the offence of Jesse Caspersz who put up the first 11 points for the visitors, including back to back triples as the Pioneers failed to close him out. The interior battle between Luke Jamieson and Simon Conn was one to savour with neither player giving an inch, with the Pioneers big man gaining the early honours in the matchup as he held the 2017 SEABL MVP to zero points and two rebounds for the quarter. Erik Burdon was proving a handful on the offensive end for the Pioneers, with his rare four-point play keeping the Pioneers within touching distance of the Spectres. That play kicked off an 11-3 run that handed the Pioneers their first lead of the game, but it would be short lived as the Spectres closed out the term on a 7-4 run of their own to lead by a basket at quarter time.
The second term belonged to Alex Marzette who exploded with 16 second term points as he did it all at both ends of the floor, singlehandedly taking the contest away from the Spectres, in one of the finest two-way performances you will ever see. The work of Kane de Wit could also not go unnoticed as he picked up his heaviest workload and provided a strong rebounding presence which generated valuable scoring opportunities for his side. The Pioneers applied the clamps on Tom Wright and Jesse Caspersz who combined for 20 first term points, allowing them to combine for just two points in the second term. Two successful free throws from Marzette closed out the quarter and handed the Pioneers a six-point advantage at the main break. At half time, the Pioneers’ Alex Marzette led all scorers with 18 points and four rebounds with Erik Burdon adding 10 points and two rebounds. For the Spectres, it was Jesse Caspersz with 11 points and five rebounds whilst Tom Wright added 11 points and three assists.
Given their ladder positions, it was expected that the Spectres would overrun the understrength Pioneers in the second half but what transpired showed just how valiant this Pioneers outfit can be. Baskets to Kyle Tipene, Sam McDaniel and Luke Jamieson inspired an 8-2 surge that saw the home side take a commanding 12-point lead. It wouldn’t take long for the Spectres to respond as they hit back with a 9-3 streak of their own to cut the margin back to just six points on the back of quality offensive work from Simon Conn, Jesse Caspersz and Costas Hronopoulos. Kane de Wit responded with a massive trey to provide the Pioneers with adequate breathing space which they maintained to the three-quarter time interval, a comfortable buffer of 10 points.
With their season on the line, the Pioneers had everything to play for and they were not going quietly into the night during the final term as they answered every challenge the Spectres threw their way. Injuries have derailed the Pioneers 2018 campaign and when Sam McDaniel went down writhing in pain, Pioneers fans could not believe the injury curse had struck again. In the absence of McDaniel, Burdon and Marzette stepped up and offered a combined 14 points in the final term as the Pioneers closed out a famous victory. There was some late biff with unsportsmanlike fouls called on Erik Burdon and Shane McDonald as well as a technical foul called on Alex Marzette, but it would play no part in the final result as the Pioneers knocked off the Spectres to record another season saving victory, 82-72.
For the Pioneers, Alex Marzette led the way with 27 points, seven rebounds and two assists, Erik Burdon had 17 points and three rebounds and Lewis Thomas doubled up with 11 points and 13 rebounds. For the Spectres, it was Tom Wright leading the way with 20 points and four assists, Jesse Caspersz put up 16 points and nine rebounds and Simon Conn rallied late to compile 10 points and 18 rebounds.
Pioneers Coach Richard Hill was pleased with his side’s defence, stating that “our defence was first class, particularly on both Conn and McDonald. Holding them to a combined 5/27 from the field was a credit to our individual and team defence”. “We had a good spread of contributors at the offensive end, but Alex Marzette and Erik Burdon stood out as the most productive offensive players on the court”. With their season still hanging in the balance, the injury to Sam McDaniel was disconcerting and Hill understands that it is a “three-week injury so he will be back for playoffs if we are still playing with every attempt made to get him back sooner, but it doesn’t look good”. With every game a must win it will be interesting to see how Hill rolls the dice with his injured players in the closing weeks of the season.