Ladder leaders keep eye on the prize

The OneFortyOne Mount Gambier Pioneers are enjoying their most successful season yet, but they are not even halfway there with only seven of the 16 NBL1 South rounds completed.

The fun will recommence this Saturday night and the Pioneers are the hunted, currently sitting pretty on top of the ladder with only one blemish against Ringwood on the report card.

With a team squad slightly shaken up from last year’s COVID-19 impacted season and the immediate build up to round 1 also not all smooth sailing, it was difficult to gauge how the Pioneers would fare.

But they have smashed all expectations by winning all-but-one game to fly into the bye as the team to chase with buzzer beaters, comebacks and double delights on the road all highlights.

Mount Gambier head coach Matt Sutton said everyone was pumped to see where the team currently sits and paid credit to the squad’s connection on the court.

“We are very happy and it has been a team effort with everyone playing their roles,” he said.

“We have worked hard to be in the position that we are in and it has not been without its challenges.

“I think our chemistry is improving every week and I am always impressed with the effort the girls give in their preparation and play on the court.

“I never have to challenge that too often which is pleasing so I can focus on gameplan and scouting.

“They are a proud and resilient group.”

Despite all of the success, it has come at a small cost with a few injuries occurring along the way.

Star import Haliegh Reinoehl had her wrist in plaster earlier in the season and missed half of the games, but returned to action two rounds ago.

Unfortunately, Tenielle Human is unable to return from her foot injury and is out for the season, while Madeline Wormald has moved to Mount Hotham and will not be able to offer her services.

Youngster Georgia Winter is also on the injury list after hurting her ankle and still has two weeks left on the sidelines.

However, these blows should not stop the Pioneers’ momentum as they look to book a home final.

But it will not be easy with Ringwood, Bendigo, Geelong and Nunawading all within striking distance.

The first challenge will be up against Kilsyth, which looms as a potential banana skin.

Although the Cobras only sit 14th on the ladder, they are a team the Pioneers have never defeated with their most recent battle at this year’s Blitz tournament and Sutton expects an arm wrestle with the addition of some big names.

“We are under no illusions that we will get the best from everyone we play and we have to continue doing what we are doing,” he said.

“Kilsyth are always fantastic and have just signed Chloe Bibby straight from college (Maryland).

“They also have an Opal in Lauren Scherf, who is six foot, five (inches tall) and athletic, so we are going to have our work cut out that is for sure.”

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