Pioneers start 2024 in style

Pioneers start 2024 in style

The OneFortyOne Pioneers women declared their intent winning both matches of their double header Melbourne road trip in the opening round of the NBL1 South conference on the weekend.

The Pioneers took the court against the Sandringham Sabres on Saturday night, securing a 17 point win, before they backed up the double header against the Waverley Falcons on Sunday afternoon, securing a comprehensive 29 point victory.

The wins put the Pioneers third on the ladder on percentage, behind the Bendigo Braves and Ringwood Hawks, who also have two wins.

The Pioneers burst out of the blocks on Saturday night and in an exceptionally close opening quarter the lead changed numerous times, with only a solitary point separating the teams at the first break, with the Sabres up 24-23.

Zitina Aokuso provided plenty of tall timber in the second quarter, but despite the Mount Gambier side’s efforts the hosts took a 43-39 lead into halftime, outscoring the Pioneers 19-16 for the stanza.

The Pioneers regrouped in the third, regaining the lead in the last minute of play and taking a one point buffer to the final break, up 60-59.

The Mount Gambier players demonstrated their determination in the last quarter, putting their foot down to run over the top of the Sabres.

The Pioneers steadily pulled in front, as their opposition seemingly ran out of legs, with Mount Gambier taking a solid 85-68 win, including outscoring the hosts 25-9 in the last quarter.

Sherrie Calleia led the scoring, contributing 19 points, with Haliegh Reinoehl knocking down 17.

Aokuso also chipped in 17 points, and recorded a double double, with 12 rebounds to her name.

In Sunday’s match Mount Gambier again found a powerhouse opponent in Waverley, with the two sides trading baskets in the opening half.

The Pioneers were up 25-23 at the first break, before going into halftime leading 43-40.

The third quarter was again an arm wrestle for the first seven minutes of play with scores tied at 61-all, before Pioneers captain Isabella Brancatisano rallied her troops, and in the last three minutes of the stanza Mount Gambier pushed out to a 16 point lead to be up 77-61 heading into the last period.

The Pioneers showed their class in the final quarter, keeping the Falcons to five points while knocking down 18 of their own to seal a comprehensive 95-66 victory.

Brancatisano top scored for the game with 23, followed by Reinoehl 22, Calleia 19 and Aokuso 18.

Head coach Matt Sutton was pleased with his team’s opening hit out.

“We are obviously happy to have the wins and it is reward for some of our preparational work leading into the season,” he said.

“I think in the Sandringham game we felt maybe like the connection was not there like it should have been, we were able to iron it out in the second half and we were much better against 

“I thought across the board Zitina Aokuso was really influential, Isabella Brancatisano had a really good weekend, particularly her third quarter against Waverley was as good as anyone has produced for the Pioneers uniform.

“I also thought Sherrie Calleia and Haliegh Reinoehl were really good as well.”

The OneFortyOne Pioneers women will play their first home games this weekend, hosting the Frankston Blues at Wulanda Recreation and Convention Centre on Saturday night and the Ballarat Miners on Sunday.

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