Pioneers on top of NBL1 world

The Castec Rural Mount Gambier Pioneers head into the first bye of the 2022 NBL1 South season on top of the world after another highly successful weekend.

The Pioneers have been on a roll in 2022 playing scintillating basketball, but their perfect record on the road was put to the test last weekend with tough away games against finals contenders Frankston and Nunawading.

However, neither team could keep up with Mount Gambier as it stormed to a pair of important wins to complete a trip which exceeded all expectations once again.

The first battle on Saturday night loomed as the toughest one against the Blues.

Frankston have won all four games since the round 2 battle at the Icehouse, so the Blues held high hopes of getting revenge on the Pioneers.

The rematch had match of the round status and the early stages had the makings of another brilliant battle.

Clevon Brown got the game going with back-to-back dunks and a layup, but a long range three-pointer by Lachlan Barker put the Blues on the board.

This set the tone as both sides traded blows throughout the first term.

With Igor Hadziomerovic getting inside and developing a good connection with Daniel Trist, Frankston started to break clear to a narrow lead.

But the Pioneers were not going to be pushed around and they drew scores level when a Kane de Wit pass found Michael Harris at the other end of the court.

The visitors then finished the quarter strong with Tom Daly helping Michael Harris and Tom Kubank push them to a five-point lead at the first break.

Mount Gambier continued its charge into the second term and Daly showed more signs he is getting closer to his dominant best.

The captain fooled the Blues’ defence with an impressive dribbling run straight for the basket, while Harris was shooting from all areas.

With tight defence complementing the offensive work, the Pioneers had a huge 35-point second term and cruised into half time with a formidable 60-46 advantage.

Led by Harris, the visitors showed their accuracy behind the three-point line with Nick Marshall, Kubank and Daly also getting in on the act.

Their work produced Mount Gambier’s biggest scoring run of the game and another 30-plus quarter in the penultimate stanza which left the Blues no choice but to settle for second best.

A Jordan Rawls tip in sent the Pioneers to a match-high 26-point lead before Barker went on a scoring streak himself to give the Frankston fans something to cheer about.

Barker – who is the leading shooter in the competition – finished up with a match tally of 33, which was more than a third of his team’s total.

However, the Blues’ fast finish did little to dampen the Pioneers’ glory as they sealed a statement making 109-91 win.

Harris was the hero with an impressive 34-point haul, while he enjoyed strong support by Marshall, Brown, Kubank and Daly in an all-round team effort.

Just 18 hours later Mount Gambier had to dust itself off for another important clash against Nunawading at the “Graveyard”.

The Spectres were not carrying the greatest amount of form into the contest, but still posed a threat to the battle-hardened Pioneers and Dain Swetalla pushed the hosts to an early seven-point lead.

Even though a stunning dunk by Marshall erupted the bench straight away, Mount Gambier took a while to find its feet, but when it did it was stunning.

Within a minute the Pioneers wiped out Nunawading’s lead and powered clear.

The likes of Marshall, Brown and Harris charged towards the basket and the Spectres defence could not keep up as Mount Gambier stole a six-point advantage into the first break.

The home side went back to the drawing board at the interval and found something to match the Pioneers.

The rivals went basket for basket through the second term as CJ Asuncion-Byrd and Jack Gandolfo found some impressive avenues to the hoop.

Their work kept the crowd interested in a home win with the difference on the scoreboard still in single figures.

However, Mount Gambier sent those hopes to the “graveyard” with a crushing third-quarter performance.

Kubank and Brown teamed up to spark the dominant passage of play as the visitors found top gear moving the ball with super speed and precision.

Once the buzzer sounded the end of the third term, Mount Gambier had increased its lead by 20 points after a huge 31-point passage of play.

Despite enjoying a big lead, the Pioneers did not slow down in the final term.

Erik Burdon started the final stanza with a bang swishing a three, while Rawls started to enjoy himself with a series of buckets.

Although Gandolfo and Asuncion-Byrd were also prolific helping their team score a few more points towards the end, they were no match for the visitors.

Mount Gambier put the foot down with another 30-plus point quarter to put the finishing touches on the 113-74 win.

There was no complete standout with Marshall, Harris, Brown, Kubank, Daly and Rawls all sharing the points round.

The double delight on the road puts the Pioneers on their own pedestal heading into the bye, two games clear on top of the ladder.

Mount Gambier is also the only side to score more than 1000 points and fans can witness its exciting brand when it returns to the Icehouse on Saturday, June 18.

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