Pioneers fall short in thriller

Not even a late comeback or a double dose of overtime could hand the Castec Rural Mount Gambier Pioneers men a sixth-straight win over the defiant Ballarat Miners in an all-time classic game of basketball at the Ice House on Saturday night. 

Fans were treated to what will go down as one of the most exciting contests of the 2021 NBL1 South season, but went home disappointed after a last-gasp three pointer from Jock Perry sealed the visitors’ 88-86 win. 

After the game was decided by the barest of margins, Pioneers’ coach Richard Hill had to accept the rub of the green. 

“It is always disappointing when it is that tight because it could have gone either way,” he said. 

“We made a few mistakes and had a chance to win in both overtimes, but they hit a big three pretty much on the buzzer to win the game. 

 “If he missed that, we would be feeling happy, so you cannot get too emotionally involved in it all because it all came down to one shot. 

“It was easily the hardest game we have had and the best we have played, but it did not go our way unfortunately.” Coming up against a Ballarat side armed with five men boasting NBL experience, two seven footers and one man fresh from college basketball, it was always going to be a tough task for the home team. 

But Titus Robinson put Mount Gambier on the front foot with his first points of a big game, but an arm wrestle emerged between the evenly matched rivals. 

A late successful jump shot from Tom Kubank gave the Pioneers a slender one-point lead just before quarter time. 

Robinson’s growing presence under the  ring gave Mount Gambier a little bit of breathing space during the second term. 

Leading by six points, the Pioneers carried the momentum heading into  the second half, but “some bad deci- sions with the ball” opened the perfect  avenue for the Miners to take charge. 

After Sam Short and William Hickey attacked the key, suddenly the home side trailed by 11 points three minutes into the last term and defeat appeared inevitable. 

However, Mount Gambier clawed its way back into the contest as Robinson became the first Pioneer to break the 40-point barrier in 2021. 

A clutch three-pointer from Tom  Kubank followed by some unbreak- able defence denied Ballarat victory  and the game entered overtime. 

Before the extra 10 minutes began, the hosts were dealt with a blow having lost the man who scored more than half of the team’s score due to foul trouble. 

Despite the setback, Mount Gambier had a chance to win the dying seconds, but Duom Dawam was blocked by Miners’ centre Deng Acouth. 

The clutch play sparked another  overtime and the back-and- forth tussle continued. 

 A grandstand finish was the result with the contest decided in the last moments before the buzzer. 

 With the pressure on, Jock  Perry became the hero for Ballarat when he flushed a three to spark wild celebrations for the visitors and cries of despair for the home crowd. 

Now the Pioneers must regroup to take on the “daunting and demanding” road trip to face both Tasmanian sides this weekend. 

Tomorrow night fourth-placed Mount Gambier meets sixth seed Hobart before taking on lad- der-leader North West Tasmania the following night.

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