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Pioneers streak on with Tassie road trip sweep
Further stating their case for back-to-back championships, the Mt. Gambier Pioneers have won both games of their Tasmanian road trip to move to 18-2, seven wins clear of their closest rival in the South Conference.
They cruised to victory on Friday night in Hobart, defeating the Chargers 86-51 while winning every quarter. Brad Hill was on fire with 27 points and 18 rebounds while Tyrone Lee shot 11-19 from the field for a stat-line of 27 and 10.
A bigger task came on Saturday against second-placed N-W Tasmania Thunder in their first clash of the season. The lead never extended beyond six points for either team but the Thunder consistently owned the advantage, including leading 79-74 with 2:30 remaining.
From there, Mt. Gambier finished on a 5-0 run to send the match into overtime as Damian Johnson (14 points, 11 rebounds) knocked down a shot and Erik Burdon (19 points) hit a three-pointer. Nathan Wilson (21 points, 12 boards) had a chance for the home side inside the final 20 seconds while Hill also missed an opportunity to end the game in regulation.
That run by the Pioneers was extended to ten consecutive points in the extra period before the Thunder finally scored through Wilson. A tip-in of his with 32 seconds left brought the deficit back to one but Tom Daly (17 points, six assists) responded at the other end, giving N-W Tasmania one last chance to take the match into a second overtime period.
Following a time-out, they were unable to get a clean look and fell narrowly, 83-86, in one of the games of the year. Playing against his old club, Lee was the difference-maker with 15 points on 5-10 shooting and 12 rebounds (six offensive).
Although the Thunder could not catch the Pioneers on the ladder even with a win, it would have been handy in the psychological battle as these two are likely to meet in the South Conference final. They will get another chance next weekend though as they face off again, this time in Mt. Gambier.
Meanwhile, the Pioneers just keep getting the job done. Their outrageous numbers speak for themselves, with 9-1 records both home and away and a 12-0 record against conference rivals.
All five starters average 14+ points, three players average 2+ assists a game, Johnson and Lee average over nine rebounds a game while Burdon (45%) sits in the top five for three-point percentage in the league and Johnson sits first for blocks with 80- 31 more than any other player and second for steals (48).
With six more victories than any other side in the competition and their latest win over N-W Tasmania taking their unbeaten streak to 84 days, there is no doubt the Pioneers are the team to beat as we close in on the 2015 playoffs.