Thunder sparks challenge

Thunder sparks challenge

The Castec Rural Pioneers improved on their record as they picked up another hard fought win on Friday night at Wulanda Recreation and Convention Centre.

Mount Gambier took the court against the North West Tasmania Thunder in a tight game that was neck to neck from tip off.

In the first quarter both sides started well, scoring consistently.

Mount Gambier struggled against the Thunder’s Sekou Sylla who seemingly scoring at will.

Near the end of the term the Thunder began to break away from the Pioneers as they led the game by nine points, up 28-19.

The Pioneers regrouped at the break and picked up the intensity they lacked in the first term.

Dylan Marshall provided good minutes off the bench in the quarter, draining two three pointers in the first four minutes of play.

Akech Aliir began to assert himself as a dominant threat in the paint, scoring 10 points in the quarter which gave the Pioneers a spark they desperately needed.

Mount Gambier’s game was plagued by their defensive rebounding, as the Thunder did an exceptional job at grabbing rebounds off their misses and scoring on second chance plays, which proved a main factor in keeping them in the game.

Even though NW Tasmania were out-working the Pioneers, Mount Gambier found themselves with a one point lead at half time, up 45-44.

From there Nick Marshall started to take over the game in the third term, scoring seven points in the first five minutes of the quarter.

Christian Peevy stood up as another contributor for the Pioneers, having a great quarter and getting the job done at both ends of the floor.

Mount Gambier pulled away to a 10 point lead, however it was short lived.

In the last three minutes of the quarter, Tasmania worked hard to keep themselves in the game, scoring 13 points to reduce the Pioneers’ buffer to three points, only up 72-69.

In the final term Aliir got the crowd hyped with a huge alley oop dunk to kick off the quarter.

However, the Thunder were not phased as they went on a 7-0 run that had them snatch a one point lead.

From then the game went back and forth with both sides exchanging the lead, and late in the match Mount Gambier held a two point lead with the Thunder staying right on their tail.

At the 2:05 mark, man of the match Aliir hit a big-time three which pushed the Pioneers’ lead to five points.

However, the Thunder came back with a three of their own to cut the lead back to two.

The visitors had opportunities to take the game back but just could not knock down shots when they needed them.

In the last 10 seconds with a five point lead, Aliir made another big play for the home team as he came up with a big offensive rebound off Austin Shelley’s missed free throw that sealed the game for the Pioneers.

Mount Gambier defeated NW Tasmania 91-84 and improved their record to 4-1, moving up to second on the ladder.

Aliir had a monster game, scoring 30 points while shooting 66.67% from the field, grabbing seven rebounds and recording a block.

Nick Marshall also had a great game, contributing 21 points, six rebounds and six assists.

After the game Aliir said he was happy to have a good game in front of the home crowd.

“It’s always good to get a win in front of the crowd, that’s all that matters at the end of the day, I mean I played well but we got the win, that’s most important,” he said.

Aliir spoke about what was going through his head to make a big rebound late in the game and how the team countered the Thunder’s ability to grab offensive rebounds.

“Grab the ball, make winning plays and grab the ball,” he said.

“We were struggling all game so it’s an effort thing, it’s a mental thing and we got it done.”

Now the Pioneers have gotten back onto the right track Allir still believes there are things to work on.

“It feels great, it should boost up the confidence,” he said.

“We still have things to work on but it’s always good to get a win.”

The Pioneers have another game at home this Friday night and Aliir outlined how the team will prepare for the game.

“Focus on the details, just the little things, connecting with each other and rebounds, mainly rebounds,” he said.

The Castec Rural Pioneers will play Keilor Thunder at the Wulanda Recreation and Convention Centre on Friday night.

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