Last year it took the OneFortyOne Mount Gambier Pioneers women seven attempts to register a win, but in 2022 it only needed one to get the job done after outclassing Diamond Valley on Saturday night.
After COVID-19 cut the 2021 season short and continued to create chaos over the summer, few knew what to expect from the new-look Pioneers outfit when the NBL1 South competition returned.
But the players made a massive statement by building a comprehensive team effort to bring the crowd to its feet and start 2022 with unlimited optimism.
However, it was not completely smooth sailing as the home team took some time to gel.
Mount Gambier was forced to overcome a tricky build up to the opening round with coach Matt Sutton being sidelined from the last series of preseason fixtures in Melbourne where new imports Haleigh Reinoehl and Cassandra Brown were welcomed to the team.
A mix of being slightly raw as a group and the expected season-opener nerves meant the Pioneers were not firing on all cylinders after tip off.
Although both recruits Reinoehl and Brown found the basket early to give the hosts the advantage, it did not take long for the Eagles to fly back into the picture.
In the blink of an eye the Mount Gambier’s five-point lead turned into a four-point deficit after Emma Mahady swished a three.
Despite Hannah Young getting herself going with a couple of long-range shots, Diamond Valley entered the first break in the ascendancy leading 20-17 after the home side could not put away free throws.
But Mount Gambier found its connection on the court and came out charging from the quarter-time break.
Madeline Wormald’s successful three-point jump shot sent the Pioneers back into the lead 30 seconds into the second term and the hosts did not look back.
Brown showed why she has won three-point contests in America by registering the first of four successful shots from outside the arch to give the home side a further boost.
The double strike kick-started a grand run for Mount Gambier which opened up a 13-point lead within six minutes of action.
Just like so many times last season, Sherrie Calleia was the backbone bringing the ball from the defensive end smartly.
Despite a slow finish to the productive term, the best was yet to come as the Pioneers stamped their authority on the contest for the remainder of the game.
Brown and Shakera Reilly were on fire in the third term as the Eagles were hardly given a look in being outscored 24-9 across the passage of play.
With a 22-point lead heading into the final term, the advantage allowed Sutton to try a few different plays and variations.
Everything the Pioneers touched turned to gold as the home crowd were treated to countless highlights.
The likes of Young, Calleia, Brown, Reinoehl and both Wormald’s found holes in Diamond Valley’s defensive structure with ease either skipping through to complete layups or performing swift passes to setup shots for three.
Mount Gambier kept pushing until the buzzer scoring a game-high total of 32 points in the final term to prove it has the scoring ability to hurt the opposition.
It was the cherry on top of a fine 41-point win which saw the Pioneers shoot 15 clear of last season’s top score of 84.
Mount Gambier outclassed Diamond Valley across all areas with a stellar shooting percentage and teamwork.
Reilly, Young, Calleia and Brown all exceeded double figures led by the latter with 28, while 10 of the 11 players enjoyed some court time and everyone played their part with 22 assists being recorded.
As Percy the Penguin danced along with a joyous crowd as the final seconds ticked by, everyone at the Icehouse sensed this could be the start of an exciting year for the Pioneers.