By Jackson Russell
WALLAN Panthers swept the Pakenham Warriors in their Big V doubleheader on Saturday night.
The Panthers’ men improved their record to 14-7 and secured a spot in the finals with a 79-67 win, their fourth win in a row.
The two teams were neck and neck in the first half with the lead changing nine times and neither team able to create any distance on the scoreboard as Wallan went into half-time with a one-point lead.
The Panthers hit their stride in the third period, outscoring the Warriors 26-16 and leading by as much as 14 late in the third.
Pakenham responded by opening the fourth quarter with an 11-2 run reeling the margin back to two points early in the fourth.
Wallan was able to hold into the lead with some big shots late in the piece.
Trace Cureton led the Panthers with 27 points, 12 rebounds and four assists while Leigh Saffin had 17 points, seven boards and three assists. Brock Carter was outstanding inside with an 11 point, 11 rebound double-double.
Wallan coach Carey Paps said it was good, a great gutsy effort from his side.
“Trace was huge, especially in the third when we got going. It was a good team effort, all the guys did well,” he said.
“I thought Hayden was really good, he didn’t damage the scoreboard much but he led from the front. Leo Viitala (14 points, seven rebounds) was huge coming off the bench with his offensive rebounding and keeping the ball alive.”
The Panthers have a tough back-to-back next week with Melton on the road Saturday night before hosting Mildura on Sunday afternoon.
“We’re confident, we’re in good form so we just have to keep playing the way we are,” Paps said.
“It’s tough because we have an 8pm game at Melton and Mildura requested an early game on Sunday but if we keep playing the way we are, we should be okay.
“Hopefully we have some exciting times coming up in the next few weeks and I’d like to thank the crowd for following the team and helping us win.”
The Panthers’ women got the night off to the right start with a 93-80 upset win over second placed Pakenham.
After trading buckets through much of the first period, the Panthers went on a 14-0 run to start the second period.
Pakenham responded after half-time with a run of their own, whittling the lead down to just on point.
The Panthers outscored the Warriors by nine points in the fourth quarter hold onto the win.
Alex Darby led the Panthers with 24 points and nine rebounds while Rebecca Romeo had 18 points and 11 rebounds and captain Gemma Jackson had 19 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.
Wallan are now sixth on the ladder behind Blackburn Vikings on percentage.
The Panthers’ women also take on Melton next week on the road.