By Tricia Mifsud
After a clean sweep for Wallan Panthers’ men’s side at the weekend, the team will head into the final round of the Country Basketball League in a strong position to contest the north-east division title.
Both the Panthers’ men’s and women’s teams join Seymour Blasters at the top of the ladders in their respective competitions.
The Panthers’ men took to the court twice at the weekend, beating Mansfield Eagles 97-69 on the road on Saturday, before hosting Myrtleford Saints on Sunday in a 69-55 victory.
Panthers men’s coach Leo Viitala was impressed with his side’s efforts and enjoyed seeing a near-full team for the first time this season.
“For us as a group, we haven’t been together too long – we’ve had a lot of injuries and COVID-19 protocol didn’t help us a lot either. The week just gone was our first as a group and it’s taken nine games to get there,” he said.
“The first game against Mansfield we just took care of business; we had a few lapses here and there as we were gelling as a new team as such but finished strong.
“Again with Myrtleford, we were taking care of business and doing the right things and I wasn’t very worried about the result in terms of what we’d win by, I was more worried about learning new things and getting everything right, which we did.”
Luke Liesegang starred for the Panthers in both matches, scoring 27 against the Eagles and 22 against the Saints.
Max Viitala supported Liesegang against the Eagles, scoring 20 points while 17-year-old Ryan Philippe made 26, including three three-pointers against the Saints.
In the double-header against the Saints, the Panthers’ women narrowly went down by four points, 49-53, in what was a mostly tight affair.
At half time, the Saints led 33-24, but a 14-4 third quarter in favour of the Panthers gave them a sniff to take a home win.
Viitala said he was also pleased with the women’s performance this season and looked forward to both Panthers’ sides playing in the finals.
“The club is excited about where they sit; the women are in a good position as well at the moment and it’ll come down to the wire for them to get top spot too,” he said.
“I think if the men win by a certain margin we get top spot, and best believe we will battle and fight and get the win against Seymour. It’ll be war on the court.”
In another double-header, Seymour Blasters’ women’s team had a convincing win on the road against Benalla Lady Breakers, thrashing the hosts 106-42.
It was a team effort from the Blasters, with big scores from Dyani Ananiev, 23, and Jasmine Hunter, 22, while Maddison Ford and Leah Swain scored 16 each.
The men followed with an 83-57 win, leading the entire match and staying composed despite tighter third and fourth-term scores.
Keenan Gorski was again a stand-out with 21 points including four two-point field goals and three three-pointers.
In the last match before the semi-finals, the Panthers’ and Blasters’ men will face each another at Seymour on Saturday, while the Blasters will travel to play their last game on Sunday against Myrtleford Saints.
The Panthers’ women will host Benalla Lady Breakers on Sunday but have forfeited a scheduled match against the Blasters due to player unavailability on Saturday.
The Blasters’ women will play their final match against Myrtleford Saints on Sunday.