By Colin MacGillivray
WHILE the result was a loss, there were plenty of reasons to smile after Wallan Basketball’s first Big V women’s youth league home game against Collingwood on Sunday.
The Panthers were defeated 72-58 in a tough, physical game, but a large and vocal crowd backed the home side until the final buzzer.
Coach Ben Whyte said it was fantastic to see many of the Panthers’ younger representative players supporting the team.
“We had a great crowd. I coached youth league a couple of years ago in our inaugural boys’ season and we struggled to have people turn up to watch,” he said.
“To have a lot of young girls from our rep program and their parents come to watch us is fantastic to see. We hope for the whole season that’s what we get each and every week.
“It’s good that we now have that [pathway between the junior and senior programs]. Initially we thought it could be a couple of years away, but to have it here and now is fantastic.”
The Panthers trailed for most of the game but made a run to cut the deficit to five points late in the last quarter, with Oliva Dalmau providing timely outside shooting and Edyn Grubisic harassing on the defensive end.
Whyte said there were good signs for the team’s future.
“Full credit [to Collingwood], they were able to play a consistent four quarters. We were able to get the last quarter back on our terms, but it was definitely another one of those physical games,” he said.
“This competition is going to push teams, and it’s about who is going to be strongest on the floor and who is going to be the strongest going to the hoop. We have the talent to really show the competition that we’re here not just to make up numbers.
“On Saturday night we’re the only game at home, so hopefully the crowd can come out again and support us.”
The youth league women will play at 6pm at Wallan’s RB Robson Stadium on Saturday night.
Panthers men fire up
The hot start to the season continued for the Panthers’ division two men’s team with another scoring outburst from star import Sharif Black.
Black recorded 37 points, 10 rebounds and six assists in an excellent all-around performance, and Leigh Saffin showed why coach
Tim Annett has given him a green light from deep, hitting seven of a staggering 19 three-point attempts on his way to 25 points.
The Panthers easily handled the Mornington Breakers 95-78, and will travel to take on Wangaratta at Benalla Indoor Recreation Centre in their first road game of the season on Sunday at 2pm.
Wallan’s division two women were equally dominant in a 74-47 win against Mornington on Sunday.
Behind a 25-point outing from Rebecca Romeo, the Panthers controlled the game from the opening tip and were never headed.
The team stifled Mornington, with only one visiting player recording double figures.
Wallan’s women will also travel to play Wangaratta at 12pm on Sunday.
The youth league division two men narrowly missed out on a chance to make it three wins from three games against Mornington, going down 79-76.
Ryan Philippe led the team with 21 points but a final-quarter shooting slump saw the Breakers come from behind for a nail-biting victory.
The youth league men will play Western Port at Somerville Recreation Centre on Saturday from 7pm.