Pioneers give Frankston ‘Blues’

Pioneers give Frankston ‘Blues’

The Castec Rural Pioneers continued their 2024 NBL1 South campaign last weekend with their opening home court weekend with back to back games on Saturday and Sunday, splitting the outcomes.

The Pioneers got the job done in a thriller first up against the Frankston Blues, but on Sunday could not get across the line against long-time rivals the Ballarat Miners.

After round 2 the Pioneers sit fifth on the ladder, with three wins and a loss.

The Blues burst out of the blocks in Saturday night’s match at Wulanda Recreation and Convention Centre, scoring 16 unanswered points.

The Pioneers left their fans standing for three minutes until forward Akech Aliir scored the maiden bucket.

After Mount Gambier’s first bucket they continued to let the Blues have their way as they made seven three pointers while shooting 87.5% from behind the arc in the first term, holding a 38-19 lead at quarter time.

The Pioneers regrouped at the break and set about stopping the bleeding as they slowly started to chip away at the Blues lead, knocking down shots and having success in the paint.

As the two teams headed back into the locker room for half time, Mount Gambier had cut the deficit to seven points, winning the quarter and holding the Blues to 14 points with the score 52-45.

In the new half the Pioneers dug deep, climbing closer to take the lead.

Guard Austin Shelly set the tone in the third, making timely buckets that helped the Pioneers bring it back to a winnable game.

After a Christian Peevy dunk in the final minute of the quarter, Mount Gambier clawed the match back to a one score game with the visitors’ lead reduced to one point.

In the fourth quarter Frankston did well to hold their lead but the Pioneers had the momentum and the crowd behind them and with Dylan Marshall at the line he finally gave the Pioneers their first lead of the night two minutes into the fourth quarter.

From there Mount Gambier went on an 8-0 run and started to pull away with the game.

The Blues were not done though, hitting some big threes to keep the game in striking distance.

With two minutes left to play Frankston tied the game up 81 a piece, but then could not capitalise on the few opportunities they had, opting to play the foul game late in the quarter.

Mount Gambier was on point at the charity stripe with Dylan Marshall being called to the line countless times and knocking them down to pull away with the thrilling win, 93-87.

Dylan Marshall had a terrific game on Saturday night, coming off the bench and scoring 23 points, finishing the game shooting nine from 10 at the free throw line.

Marshall played a big part in the team’s comeback with his energy off the bench.

“It’s just sticking to what we know, we just gotta trust our offence,” he said.

“I’m an off the bench guy so I come out and I gotta bring the energy, so that’s what I did tonight and it got us the win.”

On Sunday the Pioneers struggled to retain the magic from Saturday night in their clash with the Ballarat Miners.

The first quarter was an arm wrestle with Mount Gambier edging a small lead and holding it until late in the quarter.

Ballarat found a lot of success in the paint in the first quarter with 24 of their 28 points scored in the zone to take a 30-28 lead to the break.

The second quarter continued to be a tight battle, with neither side able to pull away with a big lead.

Late in the quarter when it was looking like the Miners were gaining ascendancy the Pioneers rallied to keep the game close.

Nick Marshall made a big time step back three at the buzzer which gave the Pioneers a one point lead heading into half time.

The third quarter was another close quarter with neither side able to pull away.

Mount Gambier lost the lead early in the term and fought hard to give themselves opportunities, but just could not make shots when needed.

At the end of the quarter the Pioneers were down by five, 79-74.

They needed another big quarter like they had the night before to come away with the win, however fatigue began to kick in for the home side as they struggled to keep up with the fresh and energetic Ballarat side.

The Miners made shot after shot while the Pioneers failed to get a bucket when they desperately needed one.

Veteran guard Tom Daly provided some good minutes off the bench and helped keep the game competitive in the fourth.

Like the previous game Nick Marshall fouled out, compounding the home side’s difficulties.

Marshall was a consistent scorer in the game and the Pioneers struggled after he was benched following his fourth foul.

The Pioneers ran out of legs, leaving the Miners to stretch their lead to 11 and take a 105-94 win.

Nick Marshall finished the game leading the team in points, rebounds, assists and steals having a 29/9/5/3 game.

After fouling out in back-to-back games Marshall spoke about how this impacted the team.

“I gotta stay on the court, that’s the most important thing for the team,” he said. “

“Right now I think it’s just our team, we gotta try and gel together better so we can play more fluently and keep moving the ball and play in more space.

“Today we are just a little bit tired, it was a big game last night.”

The loss highlighted some improvements for the Pioneers going forward, which Marshall identified.

“We are playing a little too emotional, so we just gotta stay together and play for the next play and not worry about any calls,” he said.

This Friday the Pioneers again play at home as they take the court against the North West Tasmania Thunder who sit 14th on the ladder with a record of 1-2.

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