A clinical team performance has once again proved the difference for the Mt. Gambier Pioneers as the club won their third Championship in the past four years to secure their status as a SEABL dynasty, beating the Dandenong Rangers 92-85.
Four starters scored 15+ and they shot 50% as a team from the field including 10-24 from beyond the arc while Dandenong could only muster 38% shooting on 12 more attempts.
Erik Burdon, who had not been able to find his usual stroke through his first two playoff games, was on from the opening tip with two quick three-pointers.
He finished with an equal game-high 22 points on 6-8 shooting from beyond the arc while Tom Daly ran the team with aplomb and was the calming influence on the floor that they needed when the Rangers made a late run.
Trailing by 19 points with seven minutes remaining, Dandenong put together a 10-0 run with Felix von Hofe (12 points) and Josh Oswald (ten points) bringing their club back into the contest.
Garrett Jackson (11 points, nine rebounds) then made it a four-point game with a lay-up but Daly found Brad Hill who quelled the comeback with a three-pointer before Luke Jamieson (seven points, two steals, two blocks) sealed the win with a two-handed slam.
The Rangers continued to fight right until the siren but the margin proved too great to overcome as Mt. Gambier further etched their names into the SEABL history books.
For his performance, Daly earned the Hugh McMenamin medal as the Grand Final MVP, finishing with 22 points, five rebounds, six assists and a steal.
In addition to their back court, Daniel Alexander was all over the glass for Mt. Gambier and he collected eight points and eight rebounds by quarter-time which included a massive put-back that helped the Pioneers to a three-point lead.
Dandenong gained some ascendancy once they went to their bench, with Jorden Page (seven points) and von Hofe hitting the scoreboard before Lucas Barker (18 points, five rebounds, seven assists) and Chauncey Orr (13 points) took over.
They helped put together an 8-3 run which moved the Rangers ahead momentarily but the lead was short-lived as Daly and Burdon responded by hitting double-figures to put the Pioneers ahead by one at the main break.
Burdon continued his form into the second half with another three to spark Mt. Gambier to what proved to be a game-changing 17-2 run.
They nailed their first four shots of the third term and six of their first seven with Daly again front and centre while the Pioneers’ movement in the paint ensured most of their shots were right at the rim.
Following the same script as the rest of the game, Burdon kicked off the fourth term with another three-pointer and while the Pioneers looked to be in full control, Dandenong did have one last run in them to send a few scares through the Mt. Gambier camp.
Box score here.
Following the conclusion of the game, Pioneers veteran Matt Sutton announced his retirement after more than 200 games and three Championships in his trophy cabinet.