By Tricia Mifsud
WALLAN Panthers Women’s senior coach Carey ‘Paps’ Papanicolaou celebrated coaching his 450th basketball game on Sunday afternoon with a thrilling four-point win over Blackburn Vikings.
In what was a close game in all four quarters, the Panthers held on to a 73-69 victory that went down to the final seconds.
Paps has been coaching the Panthers for the past four years, and has been a part of basketball across Victoria for the past 21 years.
Beginning at Coburg Giants in 1999, Paps led his side to the finals in the club’s first year.
He went to Keilor Thunder, winning flags in 2004 and 2008 with the men, and in 2013 with the women.
Paps also coached Bulleen women’s, Melton men’s and women’s, Whittlesea men’s before arriving at Wallan.
At the conclusion of the game, a happy Paps shared his love for the game and why he had remained a coach for all these years.
“I’ve coached a lot of good people, and I’m so blessed to still be coaching. Some people that I coached all the way back in 1999 are here watching, so that’s made today even better,” he said.
“I love the game and I love coaching. Today, the girls dug deep and were able to get the win. It’s been a really great way to celebrate the day.”
Panthers’ Carly Simons spoke on behalf of her team at a presentation before the game to congratulate Paps for his special milestone and to thank him for being a coach they could go to no matter what.
“You are one of the most supportive coaches we know. You always have time to listen and give advice, whether it be basketball related or not,” Simons said.
“Congratulations on this absolutely amazing achievement. We are so proud of you and grateful that we get to hear your jokes three to four times a week.”
In other Panthers’ games on the weekend, the men’s side suffered its first loss of the season following a road trip to Mildura.
The men struggled defensively and went down 86 to 114.