THE bottom-placed Mt Gambier Pioneers put a scare into the Knox Raiders on Saturday night in the South East Australian Basketball League.
But the talents of star guard CJ Massingale took the Raiders to safe ground and a 94-86 victory at the State Basketball Centre in Wantirna South.
Massingale scored 34 points at 55 per cent shooting, while also grabbing 11 rebounds.
It was a lethargic first quarter by the Raiders, with Mt Gambier's Brandon Brown finishing off a big alley-oop to create some buzz for the travelling Pioneers.
With the score-line at 24-12 in the Mount's favour at quarter-time, Knox was in desperate need of a spark after a flat first term.
This came from an unexpected source - 17-year-old Ben Waterhouse almost pulling off a miraculous lay-up that Massingale put back in for two points, which Massingale followed up with a big three-pointer in the corner and which got the Raiders' bench out of their seats.
Despite Knox's rejuvenated second quarter, it still trailed by seven points at half-time, but 14 but 14 points by Massingale in the third quarter saw Knox hit the front late in the term, with the scores at a nail-biting 66-65 going into the final quarter.
With the lead continuing to change throughout the last quarter, the Raiders made their breakaway with three minutes remaining, with two points to Massingale followed by three points to Mick Hill generating an eight-point lead.
When John Philip scored with two minutes remaining the lead extended to double figures. But six points in 40 seconds by the Pioneers brought them back into the contest with one minute remaining before Lester Strong scored straight out of the Raiders' time-out, helping cement the victory. Hill added 20 points and six assists to Massingale's efforts.
Despite the win, Knox dropped to second spot in the South Conference, Nunawading taking top position after winning its two games in Tasmania on their road trip.
The Raiders women had a bye this past weekend. The Raiders men's and women's teams play Kilsyth at Kilsyth Sports Centre this Saturday with the women's game at 6.15pm and the men at 8.15pm.