Mixed start for Pioneers

The Castec Rural Mount Gambier Pioneers hierarchy has plenty to think about after the side’s long-awaited return to the floor at Millicent’s Peter Seebohm Stadium last weekend.

After close to two years of no action, a new-look men’s side pulled on the Pioneers jumper and kicked off 2021 with an important six-point victory on Friday night.

However, the tables turned on Saturday and Woodville hit back to secure a four-point win and level the bragging rights.

With so much hype and preparation building up to the two nights of action, Mount Gambier coach Richard Hill was relieved to finally see the squad on court.

But he said there were mixed emotions upon reflection.

“The biggest thing was we had a chance to look at everybody playing together,” Hill said.

“The guys were pleased to get back on the court and it was really good to see the squad in a game situation for the first time.

“We played with a lot of effort, but not much cohesion.”

After being held back for so long, the Pioneers raced out of the blocks and opened up an early lead on Friday night.

Despite a late fightback from the Warriors, Mount Gambier held on and some of the new faces impressed at the first time of asking.

Nick Marshall and Tom Kubank were both prolific around the ring and scored 30 and 27 points respectively, while Nik DeSantis was also a solid contributor.

EYES LOCKED: New Mount Gambier Pioneers recruit Nik DeSantis has his eyes locked firmly on the ring as he prepares for a shot against Woodville at Millicent on Friday night.

One interesting side story was the battle of the de Wit family with Toby and Kane fronting up for the Pioneers against Zach.

But Woodville’s de Wit got the last laugh as unfortunately Mount Gambier could not maintain the momentum on the following night.

Hill said he was disappointed by the way his side allowed its former SA Basketball Premier League rivals to storm home in the second game.

“Our expectation was to go out and win both games,” he said.

“In the second game we were out by 10 for most of the first half, but we sort of laid an egg in the last quarter and were not very good.

“Woodville was a little better than I expected and was well drilled, while we were a little bit disorganised.”

Although the new-look outfit overcame its first major hurdle on the weekend, Hill acknowledged there is still lots of work to be done.

The Pioneers men travel to Portland to face the Geelong Supercats this Saturday night and the coach wants to see more positive signs.

“Just by getting out on court we took a step forward, but there is still lots of room for improvement,” Hill said.

“We have four more practice matches and we need them because we are a little bit behind where I thought we would be.”

The boost Mount Gambier needs could arrive in the form of overseas recruit Titus Robinson.

Robinson is currently playing a major role in the power forward position for Enosis Neon Paralimni in the Cypress-OPAP Basket League.

He was born in Charlotte and has previous college basketball and Pioneers experience and Hill is looking forward to welcoming him back the Ice House after keeping in touch.

The coach said Robinson’s arrival down under should be trouble-free thanks to his Mount Gambier born wife, but is unsure if he can play round 1 of the NBL1 South season.

“He is in Cypress at the moment and his team are in the playoffs, so we are not sure how long that is going to go and it could mean with quarantine he might miss the first game of the season,” Hill
said.

“He played with us in my second year coaching here, straight out of college.

“We have always kept in touch and spent some time together during COVID discussing the possibility of coming back.

“It worked out for the best because he does not need an exemption after marrying an Australian woman.

“He is an improved player, more mature, older and has been all over the world, so I expect he will have a positive impact on the team.”

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