TOP SHOT: Matt Sutton puts up a shot on his way to a team-high 24 points against Frankston Friday night at The Icehouse.
MOUNT Gambier’s Castec Rural Supplied Pioneers turned the tables on Frankston Blues Friday night at The Icehouse in Round 15 of the South East Australian Basketball League season.
In the teams’ previous encounter the Blues came out on top, but the Pioneers ensured their undefeated home-court record stayed in tact with a 12-point victory.
It was a night of entertainment, with the home side donning a special one-of playing strip to coincide with NAIDOC Week.
Early-bird punters were treated to a celebrity game prior to the main game which proved to be entertaining in its own right.
Indigenous elder Aunty Penny Bonney welcomed everyone to country in language, following up in English prior the main game.
All eyes were on Erik Burdon as he made his return to the side, starting the game on the bench.
Frankston took the advantage from the tip off, with Michael McInnes popping off a three-point bomb just 15 seconds in – but an unsuccessful result saw the home side return serve.
Ben Allen was fouled going to the hoop and iced his two free throws to give the Pioneers the early lead.
The Blues bounced back and a two-point shot from Matthew Hodgson saw the visitors take their first lead of the game.
The home side returned serve but a couple of fouls to Damian Johnson saw the star import take a seat on the bench, with Jan Warbout hitting the floor just just a few minutes into the match.
Brandon Polk gave his team the lead again with a successful two-pointer, but he would soon become the villain of the night.
With a little over three minutes to play in the first term Burdon was injected into the match and soon found space, putting up a couple of unsuccessful shots before committing a foul on Polk near the baseline.
Polk then appeared to throw Burdon to the floor and received the full wrath of the packed Icehouse as a result.
The fans let him know in no uncertain terms it was their house and he was not to treat any of their players in that manner – especially not Burdon.
As Polk went to the line the crowd roared, which saw him miss the first attempt.
But it mattered little to the visitors, as they took a solid 11-point lead to the first break.
From there the Pioneers stepped up the pace, first through Johnson, then Brad Hill and Johnson again.
At the five minute mark of the term the Pioneers had pulled the margin back to eight and then began to pile on the points.
Hill hit a two, followed up by a big three from Matt Sutton.
When Sutton drained another three the scores were tied up and his next big bomb gave the home side a three-point advantage.
The onslaught continued with the Pioneers going on a 13-0 run before Jake McAuley broke the drought for his team with a three-point basket.
But that was all she wrote for the visitors in the second term, with the Pioneers dominating to the tune of 29-9 to take a nine-point lead at the long break.
While fans waited for the players to return to centre court Clifford Wilson provided some noise of his own, with his haunting didgeridoo echoing through the stadium.
Upon their return the Pioneers began to stretch the lead and looked like running away with the game, but the Blues had other ideas.
Trailing the home side by 14 points midway through the third stanza, Polk and Chuck Long stepped up for Frankston, helping their side to outscore the hosts by four points for the quarter and pull the margin back to five at the final break.
From there the Pioneers held sway, with Tom Daly sinking a two-point basket to pen proceedings, followed up by a big three from Lukass Blicavs.
The hosts soon held a 13-point lead and while Frankston closed the gap to five late in the term, the Pioneers were able to weather the storm to take an 84-72 win.
Sutton led the scoring for the home side with 24 points while Daly and Johnson added 15 each.
Hill managed 12 but it was Allen’s 12 rebounds, coupled with his seven points that had a big effect on the game.
Of those rebounds, nine were at the defensive end, ensuring the Pioneers had use of the ball after a Frankston missed opportunity.
Burdon looked solid in his 10 minutes on the floor and should improve with each match from here on in.
Mount Gambier now sits comfortably clear of North West Tasmania on the South Conference ladder with a 16-4 win/loss record, while leading all-comers in the combined table.
The Pioneers face a tough double-header this weekend when they travel to Geelong Friday night to take on the Supercats – East Conference ladder leaders and less than one percentage point behind the Pioneers on the combined ladder – before heading up the east coast to tackle the Brisbane Spartans Saturday night.
South East Australian Basketball League Round 15 results
Wednesday: Nunawading 96 d Geelong 82.
Friday: Geelong 87 d Hobart 78; Ballarat 93 d Bendigo 82; Mount Gambier 84 d Frankston 72; Canberra 116 d Sandringham 98; Albury Wodonga 101 d Brisbane 99.
Saturday: Dandenong 107 d Nunawading 96; Geelong 86 d NW Tasmania 66; Albury Wodonga 95 d Frankston 76; Ballarat 101 d Brisbane 74; Knox 75 d Kilsyth 64.