The Castec Rural Mount Gambier Pioneers men set the Ice House alight by scoring a maiden NBL1 South home win in thrilling circumstances on Saturday night.
Coming up against a tall and imposing Ringwood Hawks line up, the Pioneers edged ahead in the tight, high-scoring contest. But with less than a minute left, an accurate free throw from Matthew Snow tied the scores and brought Ringwood back in the game.
Snow and Trevor Latham threatened to snatch the lead, but could not find the net as young Nick Marshall saved the day for the home side. Marshall rejected Latham’s efforts and pushed the ball out of danger with a crucial defensive rebound.
The youngster was not done either and gave Mount Gambier the lead with a fadeaway two-pointer before he collected another rebound to deny the Hawks one last time.
A couple of free throws by captain Tom Daly iced the game as the Pioneers ensured they did not lose consecutive home games for the first time since June 2018. Mount Gambier coach Richard Hill was relieved to get the win after the fight of Ringwood never relented. “We just could not shake them, so it was one of those games where we were very happy to escape with a win,” he said.
“A lot of that (Ringwood) group had won five Victorian championships which is a very high standard, so they had a good pedigree and were a tough team.
“They had some foul trouble and lost the plot a bit, but fought back and credit to them for ruffling our feathers. “We messed up a bit to give the Hawks a number of chances to get back in the game, so it would have been quite an exciting game to watch.”
The Pioneers did not get off to the greatest off starts when their first forward foray ended in disaster after Kane de Wit misdirected his pass to Daly. But the pair quickly recovered form the early mistake to give the home team an early lead. A Daly layup got the ball rolling, while de Wit did his work at the other end of the court with a series of steals and rebounds.
The introduction of Erik Burdon made a difference as he was on fire from the three-point line towards the end of the opening term as Mount Gambier threatened to take control. The lead grew to 14 points at one stage, but Ringwood’s big bodies never gave in and levelled the scoreboard two minutes into the final term.
Import Titus Robinson got up to speed with his second life as a Pioneer and delivered with a timely dunk to keep the host’s neck in front before tension dominated the closing stages.
Hill said it was far from the perfect game, but a individuals got the job done. “We did not play 40 minutes of cohesive basketball, but amongst all of there was some good stuff,” he said. “Nick made some good plays and had an excellent game which was good because he has only played for three years and we know his talent, so it was pleasing for him to show everyone what he is capable of.
“Kane de wit had a very solid game and Duom Dawam continued to impress even though it was a very physical game which is does not suit him.” Riding high after two consecutive wins, Mount Gambier face arguably its toughest assignment yet with two back-to-back games on the road this weekend.
On Saturday night the Pioneers will take on the winless Dandenong Rangers before facing Melbourne Tigers on Sunday afternoon.