Pioneers journey across the border

Following two unbeaten weeks at home, all eyes will be on the Mount Gambier Pioneers men and women as they hit the road for the first time in the 2022 NBL1 South season this weekend.

Both teams have started the season in textbook fashion, beating Diamond Valley and Frankston in consecutive home games.

But if the Pioneers are to announce themselves as one of the big contenders, they must be just as strong away as they are in the comforts of home.

The Castec Rural Pioneers men were an unknown quantity heading in with plans of a full-strength roster being available torched.

Despite big names such as Eric Burdon, Kane de Wit, Nick Marshall and Tom Daly all being unavailable at various points across the first two rounds, Mount Gambier has had no concerns on the scoreboard notching up two breathtaking wins.

The latest against Frankston was proof how well connected the squad is with Daly missing for the second week in a row, while Marshall slipped back in like he never left.

Facing the team which finished second last year, Mount Gambier found itself down on the scoreboard in each quarter, but fought back valiantly to steal an impressive nine-point win.

Michael Harris has joined Burdon as star shooters from the three-point line, while Jordan Rawls and Tom Kubank have impressively stepped up to fill the voids left by those who cannot make it.

The next step will be to carry this form onto the road where the Casey Cavaliers and Dandenong Rangers await on Saturday and Sunday respectively.

The Pioneers played the Rangers last year and only just emerged victorious by six points.

The OneFortyOne Pioneers women are also riding a wave of momentum having overcome a star-studded Frankston outfit.

The big six of Cassandra Brown, Shakera Reilly, Sherrie Calleia, Jasmin Howe, Hannah Young and Haleigh Reinoehl were all critical to gritty success.

The club also celebrated the 250th appearance of Matt Sutton as either a Pioneers player or coach and said the win was the perfect present.

“I am very proud and happy of the results and effort the girls put in,” he said.

“We were not sure if (Opal) Darcee Garbin was playing and when she walked into the stadium the energy really lifted and the girls got really excited for the challenge which was leasing because they could have easily gone into their shell.

“Frankston started the fourth quarter really strong and we certainly felt the pinch, but Jasmin got to the free throw line at a critical time which helped up regain some momentum.

“It was a team effort and our defence was outstanding at times and hopefully it gives them the belief they really belong.

“But we have only had two home wins so we will have a good idea of where we sit after a few rounds once we test out depth and deal with adversity on the road.”

Casey is the first stop on Saturday night, while Dandenong awaits on Sunday afternoon.

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