Pioneers brace for ‘big test’

The Mount Gambier Pioneers have a huge test on the road this weekend as the 2022 NBL1 South season takes a big turn.

The Pioneers face two big Victorian clubs in Bendigo and Geelong in back-to-back high-octane contests.

The importance of these games is heightened for the Castec Rural Mount Gambier Pioneers men after they fell just short to North-West Tasmania at home last weekend.

It was another nail-biter, but some quiet spells during the second and fourth terms proved costly for the Pioneers as the visitors spoiled the party at the Icehouse by three points.

This was after a grand performance from Michael Harris, who collected 37 points and five rebounds.

His versatility and accuracy beyond the arc will be needed once again, while teammates such as Tom Kubank, Jordan Rawls and Nick Marshall can help after fighting hard in recent weeks.

Still sitting in second spot on the ladder, it is far from panic stations for Richard Hill’s team, but it would like to start rebuilding some winning form at this time of the year.

Mount Gambier has had a patchy record lately, losing five of its past seven games and not stringing consecutive wins for more than a month.

The Pioneers will also have to rediscover their form against a Bendigo team running hot.

The Braves are in the middle of a ridiculous run of victories having won their last 10 games.

Their last defeat was all the way back in May to Hobart as Kuany Kuany and Sidy Djitte led the way.

Bendigo also has favourable record against the Pioneers, winning the last four encounters, while Hill’s men have to go all the way back to March 2017 to find their last success in the rivalry.

Things will not get much easier on Sunday as Geelong awaits keen to make it two from two against Mount Gambier.

In round 5 the Pioneers and Supercats faced off in a thrilling battle where only one point separated the sides after four quarters.

Jack White and Demarcus Gatlin were the key players on that night and will be keen for success after losing to Hobart last week.

The OneFortyOne Mount Gambier Pioneers face a doubleheader against two sides they could become familiar with during finals.

Bendigo and Geelong sit first and fourth on the ladder respectively and both will be looking to put the Pioneers in their pouch.

Saturday’s opponent the Braves loom as the biggest test with the side currently on cloud nine.

Much like its male counterparts, the Bendigo women’s side is on a hot-streak with an unbeaten run of nine wins on the bounce.

Most of these successes have been complemented by big victory margins, so the Pioneers defence will have its work cut out stopping the most prolific team in the competition.

The likes of Cassidy McLean, Abigail Wehrung and Megan McKay can all score, so the Braves will be shooting from all corners of the key.

The Geelong v Mount Gambier game is almost guaranteed to be a nail-biter given the short, but stunning history of these match-ups.

They first met last year and a huge 31-point opening term gave the Supercats a big lead, but they hit a road block in the final quarter.

While the Pioneers made a late charge and fell five points short, they enjoyed sweet revenge in a special Saturday night at the Icehouse in round 5.

Hardly anything split the teams across the whole night and everyone was forced to ensure the pain of extra time.

Mount Gambier looked down and out with a minute to go being four points down, but the likes of Cassandra Brown and Jasmin Howe put their heads down and levelled the scoreboard.

This set the stage for Shakera Reilly to bring down the house and score a clutch three-point jump shot to win the game.

After two shared games with an average winning margin of just four points, expect this contest to go down to the wire again between sides looking to snatch a top-two position in a big weekend of basketball.

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