Mount Gambier Pioneers vs Sandringham Sabres Match Report- Saturday 21 July 2018
The Mount Gambier Pioneer’s season came crashing down around them on Saturday night as a second half capitulation to Sandringham brought a horror season to a premature end, as they eventually fell by 14 points. The visiting side had high hopes and their destiny in their own hands heading into the contest, with a win all but ensuring safe passage into the post-season. However, the Sabres were rallying behind the retiring Nathan Crosswell and despite having very little to play for in terms of their season, fought valiantly to give their veteran leader the perfect send-off.
The Sabres flew out of the blocks, opening up a 10-2 lead within five minutes of play, as the Pioneers defenders found it difficult to cover all bases. The Sabres opened the game with four different scorers and were finding high percentage shots as the Pioneers struggled to close them out. Once again, the Pioneers found scoring difficult with just two points through almost six minutes of play before Tom Daly nailed a timely triple to give the Pioneers hope. Another quick trey to Daly cut the Sabres lead to just three points but the Sabres would counter via a three pointer to David Barlow who was on fire in the opening term, putting up seven points and five rebounds to commence the contest as his side took a five-point lead into the first break.
The Sabres had clearly come to play and the Pioneers were feeling the weight of expectation, but the second term would be all about the visitors who would go on an offensive tear of 32-20 to turn the game on its head. Alex Marzette and Tom Daly got the Pioneers offence flowing, combining for half of the Pioneers second term points whilst Sam McDaniel presented as a force to be reckoned with on both ends of the floor in just his second game back from injury. With 6:41 remaining in the term, the Pioneers took the lead courtesy of a Marzette triple and would go on a 18-9 run to close out the first half which translated into a seven-point advantage at the long break. Crosswell was doing his best to keep his side in the contest in his final game with six second term points but he found little assistance in the second period as the other Sabres starters were well held. Heading into half time, Alex Marzette topped the scoring column with 13 points to go with four rebounds and Tom Daly piled on 11 points and three rebounds. For the Sabres, Alister MacDonald had 10 points and David Barlow compiled nine points and five rebounds.
The Pioneers have faced numerous second half fadeouts throughout season 2018 and were keen to avoid another with their season hanging in the balance. However, it would be another cold start to a second half for the visitors who failed to score a field goal until the 6:39 mark of the term when a Daly lob found a Jamieson jam and lob city was alive and well. Despite their inability to convert offensively, the Pioneers held a six-point advantage on the back of their alley-oop play, as the Sabres also struggled on the offensive end. The teams traded baskets during the latter stages of the term before a late 7-2 surge by the Sabres cut the Pioneers lead to just two points heading into a season defining final term.
The Pioneers needed a confidence boosting basket to commence the final term but when Barlow was fouled by Daly and converted both free throws, the game was knotted up and the Pioneers season was in jeopardy. Sam McDaniel answered with a trademark triple but the Sabres shot back, going on a 9-0 run to open up a six-point advantage. The Pioneers needed to respond and marquee man Alex Marzette did just that to close the margin to four points with more than six minutes remaining. Unfortunately, the Pioneers would miss their next 10 field goal attempts amidst a five minute shooting dry spell which handed the game to the Sabres on a silver platter. By the time Marzette broke the scoring drought, the Pioneers were down by 15 points and their season was over. Kane de Wit offered a final highlight for the Pioneers season with a big three-pointer right at the death but it would do little to console a disheartened Pioneers side who fell to pieces in a final term where they were outscored 26-10. The Mount Gambier side will now miss the post-season for the first time since 2012, ending a dominating run of three titles from five straight championship final appearances.
Alex Marzette top scored for the Pioneers with 19 points and eight rebounds, Sam McDaniel had 13 points, six rebounds and three assists off the bench and Tom Daly put up 11 points and five rebounds. David Barlow led all scorers with 21 points and eight rebounds, Alister MacDonald produced 19 points and three rebounds and Igor Hadziomerovic doubled up with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
Pioneers Coach Richard Hill was disappointed with his side’s slow start to the game, stating that “in contrast to last night against Melbourne, we were very slow to get started”. “Tom Daly knocked down a couple of threes to get us going” in a tough opening term. “Our second quarter was the best quarter we have played for some time”. “We had contributions across the board in the first half but everyone struggled after half time”. “Our second halves in the last three games have been poor and consequently we are not playing in the playoffs”. “Shooting just 4/22 in the last quarter and not getting to the free throw line sums up our recent second half performances”.
A 14-point defeat at the hands of lowly Sandringham summed up a dismal season for the Pioneers who were dogged by injuries all season and hampered by a demanding schedule to close out their 2018 campaign. There will be a lot of soul searching and player movement over the off-season as the reigning premiers look to return to their usual place atop the SEABL standings in 2019.