By Colin MacGillivray
WALLAN Panthers coach Tim Annett is bullish about his side’s ability to match it with the best of the Big V men’s division two competition despite a nine-point loss to ladder leader Gippsland United on Sunday.
The Panthers are in the midst of a challenging three-week stretch, with a double-header against third-placed Sherbrooke and second-placed Mornington to come this weekend and an away game against second-placed Pakenham to come in round eight.
During Sunday’s home game at RB Robson Stadium, the Panthers were five points adrift after a high-scoring first quarter before their offence stalled in the second quarter, and trailed the visitors 43-62 at half time.
Annett said his side tightened up its defence after the main break and slowly worked its way back into the game.
“We started really well offensively, but at quarter time they were on track to score 140. We definitely can’t go toe-to-toe with them and outscore them. We’re not at that level yet,” he said.
“At half time we spoke about trying to get something out of the game and one of our big goals at the start of the year was not to be blown out of any game.
“We got ourselves back into the game and with four minutes to go we were only down six, so I was really proud of the guys.”
Despite the valiant comeback attempt Wallan fell just short, losing 79-88.
“In the four games we’ve lost, we’ve lost by 10 points, nine points, six points and six points. We’re just not quite finishing games and executing the way we should,” Annett said.
“We’ve got a tough period coming up, but it’s one that we looked forward to as a challenge.
“We want to test ourselves against the better teams in the league. We still think we’re around the mark and we can compete for a championship. We’ve just got to keep competing hard and hopefully get one or two wins in the next few weeks.”
Forward Tyler Best was a clear standout for the Panthers, attacking the rim with purpose on his way to 18 first-half points.
The Panthers began to settle for jump shots in the second half and Best, also a key defensive stopper for Wallan, tired, scoring only five points in the second half.
“Tyler’s improvement over the first eight games has been something we’re really happy with. I think in the second half of the season he’s going to find himself going to a new level,” Annett said.
“He got to the bucket really easily in the first half. They didn’t really have an answer for him. We’ll need to work on getting him more of a break so he can produce in the second half.”
Wallan’s division two women proved no match for Altona, losing 51-80 on Saturday night.
Kaitlyn Bickerton was the only Panther to reach double figures with 11 points, as the team combined to shoot an unsightly 27 per cent from the field and 10 per cent from three-point range.
The youth league division two men won a 79-77 thriller at home against the Wangaratta North East Bushrangers on Sunday, while the youth league division two women beat Western Port 81-62 at home and Coburg 87-59 on the road.
Wallan’s division two men will play Sherbrooke in an away game on Saturday night before returning to RB Robson Stadium to host Mornington at 4pm Sunday.
The division two women will travel to take on Blackburn on Saturday night before also returning to Wallan for a home game against Collingwood at 2pm on Sunday.
The youth league division two men will be at Bellarine on Saturday for their sole round seven match, while the youth league division two women will host Bellarine at 12pm on Sunday.