Mount Gambier Pioneers vs Bendigo Braves Match Preview – Saturday 13th May 2017
All roads lead to Bendigo this weekend as the Mount Gambier Pioneers make the journey to face their bitter rivals, the Braves on their home court. The Pioneers will be looking to stretch their unbeaten start to 2017 to nine straight games, but they will not have it their own way and will have to fight hard against an opponent that always poses a major challenge.
Despite their rivalry, the Pioneers admire what the Braves bring to the court, with Pioneers Coach Richard Hill stating that “We have enormous respect for Bendigo and what they have achieved. Their roster is very talented and we will need to be at our best to combat them”. In their last meeting in Round 2, the Pioneers were forced to play hard-nosed four quarter basketball to overcome the Braves and they will be a much tougher opponent in the natural surroundings.
The Pioneers will require a concerted team effort if they are going to effectively dismantle the Braves unit, as they have quality across all positions. Coach Hill knows he has a tough task ahead of him because “Starks is a scorer of note, Aiken provides impact on both ends of the floor, Doyle is a dynamic point guard and Andronicos has been their most consistent player”. Hill trusts his formula and says that his side “will be looking to play typical Pioneers basketball” which we all know means there will be no “I” present on Saturday night, it will all be about the team approach.
The Braves appear to be a different side to that of last season, with the loss of Jeremy Kendle and Damian Johnson being felt across the floor so far in their 2017 campaign. Sitting in fifth place in the South Conference with a 4-6 record is not where they want to be and you can expect they will come out breathing fire and brimstone as they look to level their season series with the Pioneers and go on a winning streak of their own.
Look for Dyami Starks to provide most of the scoring for the Braves with his season average of 23.7ppg good enough for second highest scoring average in the league to date. Tom Daly will be given the duty of guarding Starks for the majority of the evening and will need to lock down on him on the defensive end to halt the Braves’ offensive momentum.
CJ Aiken played his first game with the Braves last time these two sides met and impressed even with his brief exposure to the Braves playbook. Now that he has had time to adjust to his new team environment, look for Aiken to launch into full beast mode at both ends of the court and combine with Matt Andronicus to provide a stern test to the Pioneers triple towers of Daniel Alexander, Luke Jamieson and John Jones. Coach Hill is wary of the front court threat posed by the Braves, stating that “they have great size in the front court and Daniel Luke and John will need to be at their best, both on defence and the boards” if we are going to prevail.
This match will hinge largely on defence as has been the case in recent weeks where an improved Pioneers defensive structure was able to curtail the usually dynamic offensive systems of Nunawading and Sandringham. Coach Hill was pleased with the improvement his side has shown on the defensive end in recent times and stressed the importance of quality defence in generating desired results, stating that “our defence was much improved last weekend and more of the same will give us an opportunity to win on the road again”. CJ Aiken is currently averaging 17.3 ppg and 11.9rpg which when combined with Matt Andronicus’ figures of 11.3ppg and 7.0rpg makes for a challenging night for the Pioneers’ big men. Whilst the Pioneers have an additional tall that they can use off the bench, they will need to get more out of John Jones and Luke Jamieson who both struggled last week, combining for 6 points and 9 rebounds against Sandringham and 9 points and 12 rebounds against Nunawading. Both players would fit into any starting five in the competition apart from the Pioneers who have the luxury of three quality big men on their roster. Daniel Alexander has locked down his starting position well and truly but Jones and Jamieson appear to be battling it out on a week-by-week basis for a starting role. Inconsistent minutes can be the catalyst for inconsistent performance as has been shown in recent weeks and Coach Hill may have to settle on a regular starting five if the inconsistent minutes continue to impact on the roles and the confidence of Jamieson and Jones.
The Braves and Pioneers have a long history as bitter rivals and Saturday night will provide the perfect backdrop for another cagey encounter. In yet another rematch of last year’s Championship Final, the Pioneers will face the ultimate litmus test against a vengeful Braves opponent on their home floor and will have to put in four quarters of quality basketball to get the job done. The Pioneers should prove a bridge too far for the Braves on Saturday night as they have the depth and quality across the floor to overcome a strong Braves lineup
Mount Gambier Pioneers vs NW Tasmania Thunder Match Preview – Friday 28th April 2017
The Mount Gambier Pioneers return home this Friday night as they look to continue their stellar early season form against a North-West Tasmanian opponent intent on turning their season around.
Despite starting with just one win from five matches and being at polar opposites to the Pioneers (5-0) in the East, the Thunder have great confidence that they are just one win from taking back their season and moving up the conference standings.
The Thunder have signed two new imports in guard Ahmad Starks (Oregon State) and power forward Jeremiah Ingram (North Carolina Central University) and both will be looking to repay the faith shown in them by club management by filling the box score this week and leading their side to a much needed victory. The Thunder have had their struggles in putting their new group on the floor together with Starks joining the team late as a replacement for Akeem Richmond (family reasons). Pioneers Coach Richard Hill is well aware of Stark’s capabilities stating that Starks “is very small but had a good college career at Oregon State and was one of the leading players in the top Swedish league last season” and that he “would expect the Thunder to be an improved and dangerous unit tonight”.
The Pioneers are enjoying the perfect start to season 2017 having won all five of their matches including a strong showing last weekend that yielded victories against Dandenong and Ballarat on a back-to-back set. Daniel Alexander continues to impress in the green and black with averages of 18ppg, 9rpg and 2.2apg and was rightfully awarded for his efforts when he was named in the Week 4 Team of the Week. Pioneers Captain Tom Daly is enjoying a red hot start to the season with his 20.2ppg, 4.6rpg and 4.8apg proving highly valuable given the slow start to the season by Brad Hill and Erik “Eze” Burdon from the field. “Eze and Brad have both been shooting the ball poorly from three, usually a strength for us…to be able to win both games last weekend with them down was very encouraging” said Coach Hill.
Coach Hill was impressed with the way Alexander and Daly have gone about it so far this season stating that “Daniel and Tom have been performing consistently at a high level”. Last week it was Jack Madgen and John Jones who stood up for the Pioneers and Hill was quick to credit their work stating that Alexander and Daly “were well supported by the group last weekend, particularly Jack Madgen and Big John who both had their best games for the club”.
The Thunder will be looking to take the crowd out of the equation early on but there are question marks over their ability to stay in the contest for the duration of the evening given their lack of playing time together. The Pioneers have weathered the fast start storm in recent weeks and been able to quickly find their feet and get back in the game but it is not a trend they will want to continue moving deeper into the season.
The key matchup will be between point guards Tom Daly and Ahmad Starks as both look to provide quality distribution of the basketball to their shooters and ensure the floor is run like clockwork. The hustle of Daly will need to be matched by Starks on the interior, he will need to remain accountable for the Pioneers Captain all night and he will need to receive support from his teammates if he is going to contain the Pioneers leading scorer.
Jeremiah Ingram (17ppg, 7.25rpg, 1.25apg in 2017) brings a strong presence to the paint and the 6”7 power forward who joined the Thunder straight from his senior year at North Carolina Central University “comes in as a hybrid power forward who can play inside and outside” according to Thunder Coach Sam Armstrong. Ingram’s athleticism makes for an intriguing matchup with Daniel Alexander whose aerial assaults in recent weeks have been compelling viewing. According to Armstrong, Ingram “played smaller ball as a guard in college but is really strong and has a big rebounding mentality as well” which will test Alexander to his limits.
Despite their slow start to the season, the Thunder have a solid lineup that is sure to fire anytime soon. Once Starks is fully integrated into their system they have the potential to be a serious threat but the question remains whether that will be this week. The Thunder have lacked offensive firepower recently and put up just 63 points against Sandringham last week. Meanwhile, the Pioneers have continued to score heavily even with two of their best shooters in Burdon and Hill misfiring at 31% and 39% respectively in 2017. Look for the Pioneers to get the early advantage and be unrelenting as they seek to continue their journey as the “Redeem Team” making amends for last season’s championship miss.
The Pioneer’s face-off against the Bendigo Braves in their first home game for 2017! Game kicks off at 8pm!
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Mount Gambier Pioneers vs Hobart Chargers South Conference Final Match Report
All roads led to the Icehouse on Friday night when the defending champion Mt Gambier Pioneers looked to defend their South Conference title for a record fourth time against the visiting Hobart Chargers. This was not a match for the faint hearted with plenty of heat generated on and off the court but it would be the Pioneers who would hold sway and prevail comfortably in the end by a commanding 25 points, setting up a clash with Bendigo in next week’s National Championship bout.
The Pioneers as expected came flying out of the blocks in the opening term with Erik “Eze” Burdon setting the standard for the night, drawing first blood for the home side with a trademark triple. Whilst Tiri Masunda provided the quick reply for the Chargers it would be a hot start for the Pioneers who were clearly handling the pressure of the contest better than their opponents as a double digit differential opened up at 15-5. Tyrone Lee was uncontested in the paint, Tom Daly was running the floor like clockwork and the Pioneers were proving threatening from all angles whether by interior Lee dunking or outside Burdon shooting. Back to back baskets to Zac White and Jarrad Weeks trimmed the deficit to just 6 points but they lost their momentum once more when Burdon found Desmond Simmons who converted from long range. The Pioneers answered every challenge of the Chargers whether by oppressive offence or smothering defence and it was no surprise that they found significant separation at the end of the first term with the scoreboard indicating a 25-12 domination. The home side was dominating the boards at both ends of the court and this was allowing for second chance points whilst restricting their opponents’ ability to do likewise. Erik Burdon led all scorers with 6 points at the first break whilst Desmond Simmons had 5 points, 3 rebounds and 2 steals. Jarrad Weeks was doing his best to lift his side with 5 points and 3 rebounds but was receiving little support from his teammates.
Hobart needed to score first in the second term but the story of the night could not have been scripted worse for the visitors as any sign of early momentum was snuffed out by a monstering slam from Tyrone Lee that sent the bench into raptures. Luke Jamieson began to find his feet in the second term coming off the bench to stretch the Chargers in the height department with the triple towers of Lee, Simmons and Jamieson appearing too much for the Chargers to overcome. Tiri Masunda was doing his best to keep his side in the contest, a task made easier by a full court turnover by the Pioneers that allowed the guard to score the easiest basket of the night. Coach Richard Hill was filthy with the discipline of his side whose foul trouble allowed the Chargers to stay in the game albeit from the charity stripe. Despite their charity collection the Chargers were finding it difficult to score and were forced to take low percentage shots from beyond the arc on most occasions where they shot 1/14 or 7.14% for the half. The second term was a tightly contested affair with the Pioneers winning the quarter by just a solitary point but the damage had already been done and the home side stretched out to a 14 point lead heading into the main break. Desmond Simmons was producing his best work at the best time with 11 points and 5 rebounds whilst Tyrone Lee was keeping pace with 11 points and 4 rebounds. It was a two horse race for the Chargers box score lead with Jarrad Weeks leading the way with 11 points, 3 rebounds and 2 steals, followed closely by Tiri Masunda with 9 points and 4 rebounds.
The third term has not been kind to the Pioneers this season and they needed to make it count tonight if they were genuine about remaining in the title race. The Chargers looked to draw first blood and did so when Tiri Masunda knocked down the 2 points whilst drawing the foul but he failed to convert the 3 point play which would have been the perfect start to the second half for the visitors. Tom Daly quickly answered for the Pioneers as he absorbed heavy contact and managed to convert an off balance jump shot to once again extend the Pioneers lead out to 14 points. A hot streak from Brad Hill melted the Icehouse as he converted the 3 point play before making the most of some quality ball from Tyrone Lee to rise above the Chargers defence and nail a clutch jump shot making it successive baskets for the Melbourne United native. The Chargers woes from beyond the arc were not improving and it was getting costly as they shot 3/22 for 13.64% to three quarter time. The Pioneers continued to suffer foul trouble and Jarrad Weeks was the beneficiary as he made 9-10 (90%) from the line. Brad Hill was killing the offensive hopes of the Chargers with 10 defensive rebounds whilst Tyrone Lee chipped in with 7 defensive boards to thwart the highly touted Chargers attack. The Pioneers depth was always going to be an additional battle for the Chargers to overcome and to the end of third quarter the Pioneers led this department 10-0 with 5 point contributions from Luke Jamieson and Jack Madgen. The Chargers were never saying die but despite their best efforts they could not make inroads into the Pioneers lead which extended slightly to 16 points heading into the final break. Tyrone Lee was putting on a clinic with 14 points and 8 rebounds and was finding adequate support from Desmond Simmons with 13 points and 6 rebounds, Tom Daly had 12 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists and Brad Hill had 8 points and 11 rebounds. Jarrad Weeks was the shining light for the Chargers with 20 points and 4 rebounds, Tiri Masunda had 11 points and 4 rebounds and Shane Southwell had 9 points and 6 rebounds.
The writing was on the wall and it appeared there would be little that the Chargers could do to stop the Pioneers from capturing a record fourth straight South Conference title. This became more apparent when Luke Jamieson put back a Tom Daly miss and Tyrone Lee followed up on the next offensive foray with a signature slam that blew the lead out to 20. With the fizz fading from the game nobody could have expected the fiery exchange that was to follow. Luke Jamieson and Tom Wright had been going toe to toe all night and after some push and shove between the pair, Hobart Coach Anthony Stewart got involved and heavily shoved Jamieson leading to a melee between the two teams. To the referees credit the fight did not escalate further and they were calm and calculated under the intense pressure they were faced with as they ejected Coach Stewart from the arena. The type of behaviour shown by the leader of the Hobart side was unprecedented and a disgraceful example to the multitude of young people present at the game. The punishment was not limited to those on the court as Desmond Simmons and Monyjath Makoi soon found out when they were both ejected from the game for leaving the bench. Coach Hill was livid with his team for their response to the incident and laid down the law to his players who would have to finish the game minus two of their teammates. Technical fouls were instated for both sides as the referees tried to turn the collective chaos into calm and avoid Malice at the Palace 2.0.
Tyrone Lee proved the difference between the two sides all night and he exploded in the final quarter recording 12 points and 3 rebounds to finish with 26 points, the same amount of points the Chargers needed in the end to defeat the Pioneers. Shane Southwell fought back after a tough night at the office to finish with 17 points, with 10 of those coming too late in the game for Hobart. The Chargers were unable to gain any respite from their bench who failed to score until late in the game. The Pioneers bench was led by Luke Jamieson who recorded 13 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 blocks in just 22:45 of action. Matt Sutton and Jack Madgen also played crucial roles in the match with 5 points apiece ensuring the Pioneers lead was maintained throughout the night. Captain Sutton’s points were the icing on the cake as the last two baskets for the Pioneers, a fitting way to capture a fourth successive South Conference Title. The Pioneers were able to keep the Chargers at arm’s length all night courtesy of the efforts of Tyrone Lee with 26 points, 11 rebounds and 4 assists, Tom Daly with 16 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists whilst Desmond Simmons had 13 points and 6 rebounds. The Chargers were led by Jarrad Weeks who finished with 25 points, 5 rebounds and 3 steals, Shane Southwell tallied 17 points and 6 rebounds with Tom Wright putting up 13 points and 2 assists.
The Pioneers were clinical in the clutch situation they found themselves in tonight and this confidence should augur well for their shot at a third successive National Championship in the ensuing decider next Saturday night at the Melbourne State Basketball Centre against the Bendigo Braves. The Chargers must receive accolades for the way in which they have performed all season after capturing the minor South Conference title and will be a force to be reckoned with moving forwards. The Pioneers have fought against the odds and overcome a difficult start to the season and the complexity of an away final to win through to next week’s big decider and Coach Hill and his charges deserve credit for the way in which they have applied themselves all season.
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Mount Gambier Pioneers vs Hobart Chargers- South Conference Final Preview Report
The Pioneers face a stern test at home this Friday night when they take on a fired up Hobart Chargers side looking to exact revenge for their recent loss in the South Conference Semi Final a fortnight ago. The Pioneers suffered defeat in both regular season fixtures they played against the Tasmanian side but were able to overcome a hostile Hobart crowd and produce some of their finest play of the season to emerge 14 point victors and secure the all-important home court advantage for the South Conference Final.
With Brad Hill on the sidelines it was a backs to the wall scenario for the Pioneers but Captain Matt Sutton turned back the clock and filled the void as he caught fire from beyond the arc with 4 triples at 57.1% for 16 points. The Pioneers bench aced the test they were handed with on the night with all players contributing to the final result. Desmond Simmons led the way with 21 points at 66.7% and added 8 rebounds whilst Erik Burdon put up 14 points and 5 assists, Tyrone Lee had 11 points and 8 rebounds and Tom Daly recorded an entry-level double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
With just 8 players making the trip south, Coach Hill was faced with a difficult assignment against a side with 11 players and home court advantage. But as always Hill was unphased by the challenge. The suffocating zone defence that he drew up was executed effectively with the stifle towers of Tyrone Lee and Desmond Simmons shutting down Shane Southwell and Zac White whilst the defensive pressure of the Pioneers’ backcourt limited the ball movement of floor generals Jarrad Weeks and Tom Wright.
The Chargers were able to bounce back last weekend in the Preliminary Final against Albury/Wodonga where they exercised their minor premiership muscle and overpowered the visitors by a commanding 31 points led by Tom Wright with 23 points and 4 assists. The Chargers were never headed during the match and eased to a comfortable victory that would have renewed much needed confidence heading into this weekend’s cut throat South Conference Final on foreign floorboards.
The Pioneers will need to reenact their approach from a fortnight ago if they are to capture their third successive South Conference Championship. Team first play is the Pioneers major strength and when they are producing the desired results they do so with each player contributing to the team cause. There is very little to separate the Pioneers starting lineup from the Chargers starting five so the end result will likely come down to the depth of each side and the amount of bench points that each side can generate.
Luke Jamieson is undoubtedly the key for the Pioneers, as the sixth man he must stand up and be counted whenever he is called upon and should Tyrone Lee face foul trouble his performance may significantly influence the final result. Erik Burdon’s three point shooting has the ability to turn a game on its head and the home side will be looking for “Eze” to fill it up from beyond the arc after shooting 0/4 from long range against Hobart a fortnight ago. The Pioneers will be sweating on the fitness of Brad Hill whose NBL experience and 150+ SEABL matches are invaluable to his side particularly in the clutch environment of an elimination final. Should Hill not come up expect Matt Sutton to receive Hill’s minutes once more and for Jack Madgen to have an increased role off the bench.
Hobart showed why they finished top of the South Conference at the end of the regular season last week when they demolished Albury/Wodonga by 31 points at home. Despite the threat of going out in straight sets, the Chargers played like the underdogs and were ice cold under pressure. Tom Wright regained his scoring touch, Jarrad Weeks ran the floor effectively as he had done throughout the regular season and support inside the paint was provided by Shane Southwell and Zac White all night long. If the Chargers are to emerge as South Conference Champions they will need to first shutdown the Pioneers backcourt in Brad Hill, Tom Daly and Erik Burdon. This trio has a wealth of experience playing together and they formulate each of the Pioneers plays with great precision. The quality ball that they provide the Pioneers frontcourt with is telling and it will take strict Chargers defence to disrupt their tempo. The Chargers will also need career defining games from both Shane Southwell and Zac White if they are to upset the reigning champions. The last time the two sides met in the Semi Final, Southwell dominated proceedings with 15 points and 11 rebounds but he received no support from his fellow bigs with Zac White putting up just 4 points on 28.6% shooting with 3 rebounds. The battle between Tom Daly and Jarrad Weeks will be the matchup of the night with both players coming off stellar seasons marshalling premium ball to their teammates. The battle of the point guards is expected to be tight throughout with the winner of this matchup strongly influencing the final result.
Coach Hill is renowned for instructing his teams to attack the post-season and leave everything out on the court, a formula that has worked for him for decades and this match will be no different. Expect the Pioneers to fly out of the blocks and put early scoreboard pressure on their opponents in a bid to have them playing catch up all night long. A chance at greatness awaits the victor who will take on the winner of the East Conference Final between Nunawading and Bendigo in the National Championship Final in Melbourne on September 10.