Pioneers hot to trot

Along road trip into the heart of Victoria could not stop the Mount Gambier Pioneers from winning more games with the men and women keeping up their winning streak in last weekend’s pink round.

The Castec Rural Pioneers men enjoyed a productive weekend winning both contests to cement themselves near the top of the ladder as one of two undefeated teams after three rounds of the 2022 NBL1 South season.

The doubleheader started with a big battle against the Casey Cavaliers which was given match of the round status by the league, but the Pioneers stole the show.

With the return of Kane de Wit boosting the lineup, Mount Gambier went on the attack and showed its strength from the outset.

The Cavaliers could not stop Jordan Rawls, who went on a scoring streak as the Pioneers raced to a 10-1 lead after three crushing minutes.

By quarter time the home crowd was left stunned after Mount Gambier slammed home 34 points with Rawls scoring 15 of them.

The visitor’s onslaught on the basket continued in the second term where they eclipsed the 30-point barrier once again.

Casey’s defence struggled to contain the Pioneers, who kept charging at the basket with Michael Harris and Nick Marshall flexing their muscles as the game went on.

Although the home side upped its effort during a much tighter second half, the damage was already done and Mount Gambier’s dominant position was never under threat.

Harris was the star with 34 points and enjoyed strong support from Rawls and Marshall to push the Pioneers to the big 117-80 win, while de Wit and Tom Kubank also played major roles further down the court.

The high-scoring win was the perfect salute to Erik “Ezy” Burdon, who celebrated his 250th game for the club.

It also put Richard Hill’s team in a good space to tackle their first doubleheader on the following day and they had to dig deep to overcome Dandenong.

Another fast start gave Mount Gambier the upper hand by 11 points after four scintillating minutes where all the big names had their moments.

But the hosts were not going to back down on home turf and crept back into the game after prevailing in a closely fought second term.

Dandenong continued its charge and put the Pioneers on the notice by stealing the lead midway through the third term after a long arm wrestle.

With Dyson King-Hawea and Jacob Davison on fire during a huge 30-point third term, the hosts suddenly enjoyed an 11-point advantage as the final break neared.

Mount Gambier could have been on the verge of folding, but a Kyle Tipene layup on the buzzer kept the side in the game.

Despite nearing the end of a taxing road trip, the Pioneers had enough left in the tank to launch one last offensive on the contest.

Marshall started the run with a three-point jump shot and with Rawls and Burdon also getting into the act, the hosts had their backs against the wall.

The Pioneers wiped out the 12-point deficit and levelled the scores at the halfway mark of the final term with a Marshall layup.

A grandstand finish was in prospect, but Mount Gambier took charge.

Harris laid the first and biggest blow landing five points in back to back plays, while Burdon rubbed salt into the wounds with a couple of threes.

In the blink of an eye Mount Gambier had proved its class and ran out 99-89 winners with the charge sealed by a huge 35-point final term.

Harris, Rawls, Tipene, Burdon and Marshall shouldered most of the load, but the latter was the star with 35 points and 13 rebounds.

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