Depleted Pioneers line-up impresses

The Castec Rural Mount Gambier Pioneers men may yet to be at full strength, but they keep impressing with the Frankston Blues their latest victim in the 2022 NBL1 South season at the Icehouse on Saturday night.

For the second straight week, the Pioneers hit the courts without their captain Tom Daly, while another key-player Kane de Wit was also stuck on the sidelines wearing tracksuits due to injury.

Despite those setbacks, the side welcomed some big names back to the floor with Eric Burdon bouncing back from COVID-19 and Nick Marshall back in Mount Gambier colours after doing his thing for the Adelaide 36ers.

Marshall wasted no time and made an immediate impact for the Pioneers, soaring through the air and nailing a courageous layup to put the home side on the board.

The play brought the Icehouse to its feet and set the scene for an intense back and forth battle until the final buzzer.

Tom Kubank also had a big start scoring half of the Pioneers’ points in the first term, but the hosts were always forced to play catchup with the Blues in the lead for the full 10 minutes.

Frankston continued to find space under the ring in the second term and showed signs of stamping its authority threatening to extend the lead beyond double figures.

But Marshall and Michael Harris kept sinking timely shots and reeled back the Blues to keep the hosts in the game at the halfway stage.

After the sides regrouped, Frankston raced out of the blocks once again with Lachlan Barker leading the way.

Barker was on fire in the key with a series of layups and dunks as the Blues looked on the verge of taking control.

But just like the first half, Mount Gambier’s fitness paid dividends as the minutes ticked by.

Burdon, Harris and Kubank were nailing three-point shots to cut Frankston’s game-high 13-point lead down to just three with one quarter to go.

With the game on the line and tensions high, both sides struggled to find the basket early in the final term until things exploded with six and a half minutes to go.

The Pioneers’ push for victory was ignited by a fired-up Harris, who sunk a hat-trick of threes in as many attempts to send the hosts into the ascendancy.

Although the golden patch only netted a three-point lead, Frankston was forced to call for a much-needed time out with Harris and the Icehouse fist pumping as one.

As the clock continued to tick, some defensive errors from Frankston were seized upon by Burdon and Harris, who sent the crowd into party mode.

Suddenly Mount Gambier’s lead grew to 10 points inside the last minute and a defeated Blues side resorted to drawing numerous fouls.

All it did was delay the celebrations with the Pioneers running out 100-91 winners following a fighting performance.

Barker and Dillon Stith were the big performers for Frankston, but their best was not enough to stop the Pioneers from landing a huge scalp.

Harris had a big night at both ends of the court collecting 30 points and 11 rebounds after a 40-minute effort, while Kubank and Marshall were also prolific.

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