By Colin MacGillivray
WALLAN Panthers returned to Big V competition with a bang at the weekend after more than a year of waiting.
Wallan’s men’s and women’s teams each recorded double-digit victories at RB Robson Stadium, defeating Pakenham and Mornington respectively.
For the men’s team, the talking point was American import Sharif Black.
Black, who was signed before the 2020 season was derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic, made his long-awaited debut for the Panthers and thrilled spectators with a 40-point performance in the 86-68 win.
Black’s explosive speed and ferocious attack on the rim earned him 16 trips to the free-throw line, of which he converted 12. His thunderous transition dunk in the third quarter was the game’s highlight, bringing the Panthers’ bench players to their feet.
But Black was far from the only contributor for Wallan. Recruits Keenan Gorski and Dominic Bruno shone in supporting roles, scoring 19 and 13 points respectively and each netting three three-pointers.
Wallan coach Tim Annett said the Panthers’ combination of outside shooting and transition offence was a blueprint for the rest of the season.
“We played the style of basketball we want to play this year – really fast-paced, up-tempo, taking the shots that are there and a really exciting brand of basketball,” he said.
“We’ve got three or four really high quality three-point shooters, all guys who can quite easily have 30 points on their night.
“I’ve given them the green light if they’ve got a bit of space away from the defence to just shoot and shoot and shoot, because I’ve got every confidence that they’ll make them.”
Annett said Black’s debut was a great story for the Panthers.
“Sharif has had to be very patient, and to be able to reward him with a win like that – especially with the way he played – was outstanding, and I think it opened a lot of eyes around the league,” he said.
“He’s so quick and athletic, he gets his way to the bucket very easily, and to be honest he could have gone to the free-throw line another 10 times if calls had gone his way.”
The Panthers’ women were even more dominant in a 74-47 win against Mornington on Sunday.
Forward Rebecca Romeo dominated in 27 minutes of action, scoring 25 points on 8-13 shooting and hauling in eight rebounds.
Carly Simons and Alex Darby chimed in with 10 points apiece, and guard Sarah Scott celebrated her return from a two-year layoff with an Achilles injury and the pandemic by scoring three points.
Wallan’s defence stifled the Breakers, who shot an abysmal 28.8 per cent from the field.
The Panthers’ youth league teams could not match the exploits of the senior sides, with the division two men losing 79-74 and the division two women losing 72-58 in their Big V debut, both to Southern Peninsula.
Wallan’s senior men will host Mornington at RB Robson Stadium on Saturday at 8pm, with the youth league men also playing Mornington in a curtain-raiser at 6pm.
The senior women will be on the road to face Corio at Geelong Arena on Saturday night, with the youth league women at home against Collingwood at 1pm on Sunday.