By Jackson Russell
Wallan Panthers’ men extended their record to a perfect 8-0 while the Panthers’ women improved to 7-1 with wins over Seymour Blasters in a Mitchell Shire derby double-header on Saturday.
While the Panthers’ men got off to a slow start, falling behind 10-3 early, they were in control for much of the game, taking a 25-16 lead into quarter time.
It was all Wallan in the second quarter, outscoring the Blasters 22-11 to lead by 20 at half-time.
Seymour came out of the half-time break and was able to hold off the Panthers’ onslaught but wasn’t able to close the margin and trailed by 23 after three quarters.
With an unassailable lead, the Panthers cruised to their eighth-straight win and the Panthers first-ever men’s win in Seymour.
Max Viitala led the Panthers with 29 points while Luke Liesegang chipped in with 12 points.
Wallan coach Tim Annett said the Panthers were off to a great start.
“We’ve seen a fair bit of improvement over last year but that’s all down to the boys who have worked really hard,” he said.
“Before the game, we knew the Wallan men’s team had never had a win in Seymour so the boys were extremely motivated to make sure they go up there and put on a good performance.
“Max was outstanding, he barely missed a shot and that really set the tone for the rest of the game.”
Wallan has a tough weekend ahead, hosting Shepparton on Saturday before travelling to Benalla for a Sunday afternoon
“We’ve been looking forward the Shepparton game at home all year after a close game in round one and Benalla will be a tough game too,” Annett said.
The Panthers’ women had a tougher time of it, locked in to a neck-and-neck battle with Seymour throughout all four quarters before prevailing by seven points.
Wallan held just a two-point lead after a fast-paced 22-20 first quarter.
Every time Wallan looked like pulling away, Seymour would rein the Panthers in as the margin remained two points at half-time.
Wallan led by as much as seven points with 2:30 to go in the third quarter before Seymour pulled the deficit back to two points with 22 seconds on the clock.
Late fouls and made free throws by Karina Marasco and Nicola Stewart give Wallan a five-point lead at the final break.
Seymour was up for the challenge and the two sides traded buckets for much of the fourth quarter until the scores were tied with 4:37 left on the clock.
With big shots coming from Marasco, Wallan was able to pull away for the win.
Marasco finished with 10 points while Carley Cranston led the Panthers with 15 points including crucial free throws down the stretch.
Wallan coach Ben Whyte said it was a phenomenal effort from the girls.
“It was probably our best 40 minute game we’ve played all year in terms of the way we wanted the game to be played,” he said.
“Karina was fantastic for us for 40 minutes. Both our guards Karina and Sarah Wakefield were fantastic keeping the pressure on the Seymour guards and ensuring Seymour didn’t run away with the game because they’re a very fast side and we needed to contain them early.
“Shepparton will be a really interesting game, we beat them comfortably in round one but I think they’ll be a different side this time around and it will be a more competitive game so we’ll have to be at our best to get the win.
“Despite our result against Benalla two weeks ago winning by 60-plus, it’s a dangerous game because they’re seeking their first win so if you take them lightly, you can get done so we’ll look for two four-quarter performances to finish 2019 and put us in a position to host a semi-final.”