Red hot Pioneers hit road for double header

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The Mount Gambier Pioneers men and women have been on fire and another double header lies ahead in the team’s plan to continue the perfect start to the NBL1 South season.

The first road trip of 2022 went much smoother than the last interstate journey where the Pioneers had to crisscross the country to avoid Victoria.

But this time the results were mind blowing with both teams extending their winning streaks from some tricky positions.

The OneFortyOne women were dealt with a heartbreaking blow before they hit the road when import Haliegh Reinoehl broke her hand in the dying stages of a Thursday training session.

Despite missing such a key player, Mount Gambier did not back down and took the fight to a strong Casey outfit.

After four tough quarters the game was in the balance inside the final minute and with 30 seconds to go the Pioneers found themselves one-point down.

Coach Matt Sutton called a time out which gave his team the chance to regroup before Hannah Young shot a clutch two pointer to steal the game from the jaws of defeat.

Sutton said the girls stepped up under pressure after a fiercely contested game.

“It was a tough game, but we had to be organised for the last play,” he said.

“Hannah was able to make a smart play and was confident enough to get the shot to pinch it at the end.

“It was an important win after we took the most of the opportunities, so I was really pleased we got through it.”

Mount Gambier had no such dramas in Sunday’s clash against Dandenong despite the challenge of backing up less than 24 hours after the gutsy win over the Cavaliers.

The Pioneers were on fire during the first half scoring 62 points to effectively seal the result.

Although the likes of Shakera Reilly, Jasmin Howe, Hannah Young, Sherrie Calleia and Cassandra Brown shouldered most of the work, Sutton was also impressed by some of the younger talent.

“We were really happy with how we started that game,” he said.

“We shot the ball well which was important to build the lead.

“I thought Olivia Wormald came on with some fantastic energy and gave us some crucial second opportunities which were vital behind our fast start.

“I was very happy with the first half.”

The double delight on the road vaulted the Pioneers to the top of the ladder as the only team to remain undefeated from four games.

But Mount Gambier will have to work hard to maintain its perfect record as another doubleheader in the Victorian border beckons.

The opening game against Ringwood on Saturday looms as the big one with the Hawks fifth on the ladder and flying after Marta Hermida and Marena Whittle led a strong win over Nunawading.

Even without Reinoehl, the Pioneers have proved their class and Sutton is anticipating a tough time against Ringwood and then 16th placed Keilor on Sunday.

“Ringwood in particular is a very well organised and coached team so we cannot wait for that challenge,” he said.

“Keilor also have some devastating talent so that will be a tough game too.”

The Castec Rural Pioneers men also kept the good times rolling and few will forget their comeback against Dandenong.

The home appeared safe leading by 12 points during the second half, but Mount Gambier showed its fighting qualities, going on a shooting spree to win from nowhere.

Castec Rural Mount Gambier Pioneers coach Richard Hill could not speak highly enough of his team to turn the game around without captain Tom Daly.

“That was a hell of a win because we had no right to win that game,” he said.

“Kane de Wit only played seven minutes because he hurt his ankle and we were also in foul trouble through the game, so Harry Mules helped out for us.

“We had a great start but they had all the momentum and then we found a couple of chinks in their defence we were able to exploit.

“Nick Marshall had a tremendous finish to the game, Erik Burdon knocked down a couple of threes.

“We had an unbelievably strong finish considering we were down to five guys.”

The Pioneers also easily outshot Casey with a lightning start scoring 66 points in the first half, but Hill said his team was assisted by COVID-19 restrictions.

“We expected the game to be a lot tougher than it was because Casey had three starters out with COVID, but we came out really well and the game was over pretty quickly,” he said.

“We came out really strong in the start and we were ready to play.”

Like the women, the men will also hit the road and play a double header for the second successive week with the Ringwood game expected to be another tight game after Mount Gambier won by four points in the corresponding clash last year.

But Hill’s biggest concern is if his team still has the legs with Daly still on the sidelines and de Wit also under an injury and a second import yet to arrive.

“It all depends on how Kane recovers from the ankle and Tom is still crook, so it has been a bit of a stretch for us and we are managing to get it by,” he said.

“This weekend shapes up to be very similar to our first double header, but both are decent teams and we will need to play well.”

The Ringwood women’s game tips off Saturday night’s action from 6pm, while the Keilor contests arrive from 2pm on

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