The Mount Gambier Pioneers men’s team took all before them on Sunday afternoon when they accounted for a disappointing Sabres line-up by a commanding 35 points.
The Pioneers got first use of the basketball and wasted no time impacting the scoreboard with two split trips to the foul line followed by a Kentrell Barkley layup as the Pioneers led 4-0. The Sabres hit back with back to back baskets from Rigby Aktanarowicz and CJ Rivers before consecutive baskets to Tom Daly steadied the Pioneers cause. Barkley was proving a thorn in the Sabres side at both ends of the court early with 6 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 assist and 1 block filling up the box score in the opening term. The chemistry between guards Tom Daly and Brad Rathjen was proving effective with the pair combining for 15 points in the first quarter. The Pioneers were getting value from every member of their starting five and didn’t miss a beat when their reserves hit the floor as they opened up a 28-18 advantage at quarter time.
The Pioneers were looking to maintain momentum heading into the second term and when Kyle Tipene found Barkley for the epic slam, the visiting side had the run on. The Pioneers continued to pile on the points as they went on a huge 19-3 run to extend the margin to a dominating 26 points with just over three minutes to play in the first half. Sturt rallied as they fought hard to remain in the contest but the Pioneers had all the answers as their combined team effort put the Sabres to the sword and ensured they went into the second half with a 24-point lead. The Pioneers were led by Kentrell Barkley with a half time double double of 15 points and 11 rebounds, whilst Erik Burdon added 7 points and 4 assists and Brad Rathjen added 7 points and 3 assists. For the Sabres, Nikolas DeSantis led the way with 5 points and 3 assists and Thomas Goodall added 4 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists.
With their backs to the wall, the Sabres needed to show some resolve in the second half and when CJ Rivers knocked down the first basket of the quarter, Sturt had the start they were after. The Pioneers were not going anywhere however and responded in emphatic fashion, going on a 9-2 run on the back of dominating offense from Barkley and Rathjen. With the margin extending to 29 points, the Sabres were looking for answers and they found some from Goodall who scored his side’s next six points but he had little support and the Pioneers continued to dominate the quarter. When Burdon hit money from mid-range, the Pioneers had compiled an imposing 35-point lead and it would only get worse for the home side as the lead soon blew out to 42 points late in the term. A late Aktanarowicz basket cut the margin to an even 40 points heading into the final term.
DayJar Dickson kept the Pioneers momentum rolling at the start of the final term when he slammed home a quality dime from Rathjen as the pain intensified for the Sabres. A 10-2 run from the Sabres was a case of too little too late but it did ensure the game didn’t notch up the feared 50-point margin. The Pioneers were able to unleash their up and coming stars in the final term and provide their starters with much needed rest after a trying two days in oppressing conditions. Sturt capitalised to win their only quarter of the match 21-16 but it did very little to impact on what was an outstanding performance from the Pioneers given their limited preparation and demanding schedule. A successful jump shot from Tipene iced the Pioneers cake as they ran out victors 101-66. Kentrell Barkley led all scorers with 24 points, 13 rebounds and 3 steals, Brad Rathjen contributed 15 points, 4 rebounds and 2 steals and Erik Burdon was his consistent self with 14 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists. For the Sabres, Nikolas DeSantis led the way with 12 points, 2 rebounds and 3 assists, Rigby Aktanarowicz added 11 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists and Thomas Goodall added 10 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists.
The Pioneers now have a week’s break before they meet the Southern Tigers at home in a fortnight’s time and the Sabres will have to back up next week when they will meet North Adelaide at Pasadena.