By Colin MacGillivray
IT was a case of third time lucky for Seymour Blasters’ women’s Country Basketball League team, which avenged two consecutive north-east division grand final defeats with a 20-point win against Wallan on Saturday.
While the 73-53 final score showed an easy Seymour win, it was anything but.
The Panthers, playing on their home court at RB Robson Stadium, came out full of fire and led by two points at half time.
Kaitlyn Wakartschuk was one of the Panthers’ best performers in the first half, hitting three three-pointers and scoring 11 points, but went down with an ankle injury midway through the third quarter.
While Seymour had already worked its way into the lead, Blasters coach Bill Pearce said the team saw an opportunity to ‘put its foot down’.
“[Kaitlyn is] a wonderful shooter and a real powerhouse on the floor. She directs traffic and sets up a lot of the stuff they run,” he said.
“Without her it really hurt them, but that being said we had to put our foot down when she went down, and we had to control the game, which we did.
“We were continually changing and not letting them get a rhythm about what defences we were sitting in or what offences we were running.
“We scored about eight or nine points in a row, which was nice.”
Most of those points came via Dyani Ananiev and Maddison Ford, who combined brilliantly to score 27 and 25 points respectively.
Wallan made an early run at the Blasters in the final quarter, with Ruby Pantisano, Nicola Stewart and Carley Cranston hitting some big shots, but Seymour was able to keep its composure and maintain the lead.
Ananiev was particularly dominant, scoring from the three-point range, midrange and at the basket, while using her length on the defensive end to disrupt Wallan passes and block shots.
She was rewarded with both the season and grand final most valuable player awards after the game.
“Dyani is a superstar. She’s WNBL listed for the Bendigo Spirit and sits on the bench every week for them,” Pearce said.
“She trains every day of the week at Bendigo and then still fits in a training with us.”
Pearce was also full of praise for his other players, including centre Leah Swain, who used her height to dominate the boards and score a handy 10 points.
“That group has been together for a very long time, and it’s potentially the last time they’ll be together,” Pearce said.
“Maddie Ford looks like she’s going to head off to the US for college next year, Leah Swain is in the army and is looking to get posted, so everything came together for us.
“We had two [grand final] losses in the last two seasons, so to finally get on the other end and get a win is a great feeling.”