Roy Ward on the Mt. Gambier Pioneers, plus this week’s big plays and the media wrap up.
Their defence is better and their offence needs some work but reigning SEABL champions Mt Gambier Pioneers will test their 2015 chances with a road trip to Melbourne this weekend.
The Pioneers had an unusual start to the season with three home games and will drive over the border to play Dandenong Rangers on Saturday night then Sandringham Sabres on Sunday.
The Pioneers are 2-1 after three games and had a solid 77-60 win over Hobart Chargers last Friday night without NBL swingman Brad Hill who has been battling a shoulder injury, one which sees him listed as “hopeful” for the Melbourne road double.
Pioneers coach Richard Hill said Hobart was a pesky opponent and it was only a big run in the third term which allowed his side some breathing space.
“We went on what I think was a 19-0 run in the third quarter and our defence was just off the charts as they didn’t score for about eight and a half minutes,” Hill said.
“We have improved defensively this year but our offence isn’t clicking just yet.”
Hill believes import bigs Damian Johnson and Tyrone Lee have given his side a tougher defensive interior and allowed their guards to pressure more.
“We have two very good athletes who don’t have great size but both have good length, seven-foot wingspans,” Hill said.
“For mine, DJ is the best defensive player in the competition and I don’t know that Tyrone is that far behind him.”
Point guard Tom Daly spent this past NBL season with Adelaide 36ers and Hill said he had come back to Mt Gambier in good form and was looking to again show he is an NBL calibre player.
Daly scored a team-high 22 points against the Chargers and scored key buckets in the final term when the visitors made a run and came within reach of the lead.
“Tom was there when we needed him most, he controlled the tempo well and made some big baskets,” Hill said.
With the Pioneers ranking their imports among the league’s best defenders, the clash with Dandenong’s super athletic front line should be exciting as Johnson, Lee and co. will battle NBL tested Rangers’ Daequon Montreal, Lucas Walker and Chris Patton.
“DP [Rangers coach Darren Perry] must be scratching his head – he has an enormous amount of talent, a gifted first five which will work eventually but it’s not working at the moment,” Hill said.
“I feel like we can match that as good as anybody. Brad Hill shouldn’t have played the first game and we are not sure if he will be available this weekend but when he shifts into the group that gives us three long athletes in the front court.”
Another positive for the Pioneers is locally raised teenagers Kane De Wit and Brad Rathjen who are coming through the ranks and starting to push for SEABL minutes.
“We are really in the middle of nowhere in a basketball sense,” Hill said.
“These kids don’t have much else except for under age nationals once a year and SEABL – they are pushing for minutes and we want to play them but we have to manage that with the older players who deserve minutes too.”
As for the expectations on his reigning champion team, Hill said his team had to learn to live with that tag.
“We feel as though we need to replicate what we have done and we think we are equal or better than last year but other sides might be significantly better,” Hill said.
“It’s the old story – we want to take it one week at a time but the brain doesn’t think like that.”
*Kilsyth guard Kyle Adnam (33 points, seven rebounds and seven assists) and Ballarat’s Ray Booker (30 points on 10-18 shooting) held a shootout in their clubs’ battle at Ballarat with the Cobras’ scoring a 100-78 win.
*Dandenong’s NBL star Lucas Walker had a big weekend on the glass with 18 points and 16 rebounds against Nunawading plus 17 rebounds against Frankston.
*Albury-Wodonga forward Cory Dixon was on the board again with 32 points and seven rebounds while playing all 40 minutes in the Bandits’ loss Geelong.
*Nunawading centre Simon Conn scored 18 points and pulled in 17 rebounds in his club’s win over Dandenong Rangers.
*Bendigo import Grant Johnson has the reputation of a big time scorer and it showed as he scored 29 points on 10-18 shooting in the Braves’ win over Nunawading.
*Canberra import Nnaebuka Anyaorah was huge in the Gunners win over NW Tasmania with 26 points and 16 rebounds.
*Dandenong centre Chris Patton was strong in the Rangers’ win over Frankston with 21 points and 10 rebounds.
*Brisbane guard Brendan Teys knocked down 25 points in the Spartans win over Sandringham while Sabres import Junior Hairston was big with 14 points and 17 rebounds.
*Mt Gambier forward Tyrone Lee was active against Hobart with 15 points, 14 rebounds and two blocks.
*BA Centre of Excellence forward Jack White was highly efficient against Canberra with 21 points on 9-13 shooting plus nine rebounds in 28 minutes.
SEABL media links
Want more info on the men’s competition? Here’s a handy guide…
*Leader’s Megan Hustwaite (@MeganHustwaite) reports on how Nunawading star Shane McDonald found himself in hospital with cellulitis. Report: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/leader/east/hipster-smoothie-jar-sidelines-nunawading-spectres-basketball-star-shane-mcdonald-with-injury/story-fngnvmqa-1227313395121
*Bendigo Advertiser’s Nathan Dole reports Bendigo Braves’ coach Ben Harvey praises Grant Johnson in his side’s win. Story: http://www.bendigoadvertiser.com.au/story/3036937/braves-fight-to-win-top-contest/?cs=81
*The Border Watch’s Trevor Jackson @T_B_Jackson) reports on Mt Gambier’s win over Canberra. Story, pic: http://www.borderwatch.com.au/story/3030921/pioneers-break-the-ice/?cs=1644
*Hobart Mercury’s Simeon Thomas-Wilson reports on a tough weekend for Hobart Chargers. Story: http://www.themercury.com.au/sport/local-sport/chargers-come-away-empty-handed-but-imports-show-spark/story-fnj92b0f-1227322154734
*Geelong Advertiser’s Wes Cusworth (@WesCusworth) reports on a physical clash between the Supercats and Albury-Wodonga. Story, pics: http://www.geelongadvertiser.com.au/sport/local-sport/seabl-geelong-supercats-show-depth-with-win-over-albury-wodonga/story-fnjuhs0b-1227321830382
*Border Mail’s Steve Smith (@stevesmithffx) writes the Bandits are a much more professional team this season. Story: http://www.bordermail.com.au/story/3033504/new-professionalism-has-team-aiming-high/?cs=10
*Smith also reports the Bandits’ aren’t in a panic about their loss to Geelong. Report, pic: http://www.bordermail.com.au/story/3038184/the-first-defeat-but-its-hardly-time-to-panic-chalmers/?cs=10
*Ballarat Courier’s Melanie Whelan (@Melanie_Whelan) reports on the Miners’ loss to Kilsyth. Report, pics: http://www.thecourier.com.au/story/3038158/basketball-miners-fizzle-out/?cs=63
*The Advocate’s Cameron Whiteley reports on NW Tasmania’s weekend. Report, pics: http://www.theadvocate.com.au/story/3037434/thunder-rolling-along-the-road-to-consistency/?cs=88
Roy Ward (@rpjward) is a freelance sports writer who has covered the NBA, NBL, WNBL, SEABL and Big V during his career. He will be filing weekly columns on the SEABL men’s and women’s competitions during this season. For feedback or suggestions send Roy a tweet or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org