Pioneers surge to top

The Castec Rural Mount Gambier Pioneers cannot stop winning and climbed to the top of the ladder after extending its streak during another successful road trip last weekend.

The fourth round of the 2022 NBL1 South season presented another banana skin for the Pioneers with tough opponents Ringwood and Keilor lined up.

Saturday night’s contest against the Ringwood Hawks loomed as the closest contest, but the home team was in for a surprise as Mount Gambier ran hot in the first half.

The visitors only needed nine seconds to make an impact when Nick Marshall got things under way with a layup and continued his onslaught through the opening minutes to form a lead.

As the quarter progressed, Marshall enjoyed support from Jordan Rawls, Michael Harris and Tom Kubank to push the Pioneers out to a 10-point advantage at the first break.

Mount Gambier’s scoring spree went even further in the second term as Harris, Marshall and Erik Burdon ran hot from the three-point line with fast transitions across the court.

Across a destructive nine-minute passage, the Pioneers blasted 34 points to hold all the high ground at the main break with a 62-40 advantage.

With the big names flushing threes, Kubank performing slam-dunks and Kane de Wit showing why he is the competition assists leader, Mount Gambier was in complete control.

Ringwood managed to show some fight across a more evenly-matched second half, but the Pioneers were never challenged on the scoreboard.

Marshall managed to cut through the defence towards an open basket on numerous occasions and finished up with 32 points, nine rebounds and four assists, while the Hawks were led by Robert Heath’s 26.

Although Keilor sat towards the lower end of the ladder, the Thunder put the Pioneers to the test.

Mount Gambier remained without captain Tom Daly which forced its starting five to shoulder a big workload for a second straight night.

The Thunder wanted to make a statement and tested the visitors from the opening tip to the final whistle.

Kubank was the first to hit the scoreboard, but the Pioneers’ lead only lasted 20 seconds and they remained on the back foot for the next three quarters.

Keilor’s tight defensive structure made life tough for the Mount Gambier guards to break through, while Tyler Kidd and Jacob Lampkin were effective at the other end to grow their advantage up to 13 points.

Despite the pressure being firmly on the Pioneers, they kept scrapping away to remain in the fight as Harris and Rawls played big roles at both ends of the court.

Mount Gambier made its move in the third term scoring 28 points to 19 which brought the game to life.

Marshall led the assault with his intense drive at the basket, while a pair of de Wit free-throws sent the visitors into the lead at the halfway stage of the third quarter.

The comeback set the stage for a tense final term where both sides had their moments in the basket-to-basket period.

Five Keilor players shot double digits with Lampkin a standout also collecting a game-high 20 rebounds, but his best efforts could not stop the Pioneers’ late charge.

Mount Gambier held on by eight points to become the only undefeated side left in the competition.

The latest success was driven by Marshall’s 31-point haul with Harris and Rawls also being prolific.

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