Heat on Pioneers

After a double delight to open the 2022 NBL1 South season, the OneFortyOne and Castec Rural Mount Gambier Pioneers sides are plotting paths to more success, but they could be stopped by a formidable Frankston setup this Saturday night.

The Pioneers will be in action at the Icehouse once again this weekend and the round 2 battle will be an early sign to see if they have what it takes to mix it with the best.

The women’s have many reasons to be cheerful after collecting a win at the first time of asking considering it took seven attempts last year.

Despite admitting Diamond Valley was not at full strength, OneFortyOne Mount Gambier Pioneers women’s coach Matt Sutton said it was a great confidence booster for the girls to win by 41 points at home.

“We are glad to get the season under way and it always makes you better starting with a win,” he said.

“But we are under no illusions that Diamond Valley was missing some key players and they will be a much different team when we play them next time.

“But we are happy with our ability to score and had 40-plus at half time which is always competitive.”

With Sutton himself sending time away from the group in isolation and the imports only arriving at the last minute, the coach said there were a few nerves early on which resulted in some errors defensively and the visitors enjoying at three-point lead at the first change.

“We were a bit uncertain knowing there were some chemistry things we had to iron out around the game plan and defensive structure,” he said.

“But the two weeks went the best they could and the girls connected really well, especially once we had once we had the full group together.

“There was a bit of edginess which rattled our defence because we were not as disciplined as we should have been, but that improved as the game went on.

“The girls made some adjustments at half time which helped us break the game open.”

In the second half the Pioneers were flying, outscoring the Eagles 56-22 after the main break and central to the run were imports Cassandra Brown and Haliegh Reinoehl.

Brown was one of the biggest stars of the night scoring a game-high 28 points and was on fire from the three-point line, while Reinoehl showed what she is capable of scoring nine points and collecting plenty of rebounds.

“Cassandra was awesome and never lost faith after missing some makable shots early,” Sutton said.

“She is very much a professional and went hot in the second half which helped us break the game open and I was also really pleased with her intensity down the defensive end, particularly in the third quarter.

“Haliegh was really influential, her minutes were down a little bit due to some foul trouble, but she got her hands on loose balls and made some extra passes to wide open shooters.”

Although it can be easy to get caught up in the excitement of a dream start to the season, Sutton stressed there is a far greater test coming up this Saturday.

Frankston had a double header on the weekend and started strong by overcoming Dandenong by 12 points, where Chelsea D’Angelo went big.

Although the Blues could not back the result up 24 hours later going down to Sandringham in a fighting defeat, Sutton is well aware of the calibre his girls will be up against facing the team which finished third last year.

“I am happy with the result, but know there is still a lot of work to do with our defence which will be tested out against a very good Frankston team,” he said.

“They will make us pay if our discipline and rotations are not where they need to be.

“They are led by Tessa Lavey, who has played in the Olympics just gone and have a number of WNBL talent with Darcee Garbin, who is still to come in and one of the best players in Australia at the moment.”

After a stirring win with an understrength team, the Castec Rural Mount Gambier Pioneers are also bracing themselves for another battle.

The men’s Blues went back-to-back sneaking past Dandenong before easily accounting for Sandringham on the road with Dillon Stith and Daniel Trist the heavy hitters.

It In a big boost for hosts, coach Richard Hill, captain Tom Daly and star-shooter Erik Burdon are all expected to make a triumphant and swift return from COVID-19 and be present this Saturday.

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