By Colin MacGillivray

Wallan Panthers kept their dream of a Big V women’s division two finals berth alive with an impressive 77-61 win against Corio Bay on Sunday.

Playing at home, the Panthers jumped out to a 17-6 lead halfway through the first quarter before their offense went cold, failing to register a point for the rest of the term as the Stingrays trimmed the margin to four points.

After that it was smooth sailing however, as Wallan increased its margin at every break to record a 16-point victory.

Guard Kaitlyn Wakartschuk finished with 20 points on 3-8 shooting from three-point range to lead all scorers, also contributing six assists and four steals.

Sarah and Jacinta Scott were also impressive, totalling 10 and 12 points respectively, and youth league division two women’s player Olivia Dalmau had a handy 13-point performance off the bench.

Wallan coach Carey Papanicolaou said with the Panthers’ depth tested by player injuries and unavailability, the ability of the youth league women to play a role in the senior side had been vital.

“We had five [regular] players and then three of the youth league girls because we were short of numbers,” he said.

“They all played as a team and played for each other. It was good to have the youth league girls come give us some depth.

“A few stood out, like ‘Waka’ and Sarah and Jacinta, but it really was a team effort, which was great. It was a win we needed to keep our finals chances alive.”

With a road game against ladder leader Altona looming on Sunday, Papanicolaou said the Panthers’ depth would be tested again.

“Through the second half of the year that’s been our story,” he said.

“We’ve had Amber [Ross] away, and she comes back the week after the Altona game, which will be handy. Hopefully we’ll be back up to seven players soon.”

Wallan’s division two men also had success at the weekend, downing a spirited Melton for the second time in as many weeks in a road game on Saturday night.

The Panthers built an 11-point lead at half time by leaning on centre Arcaim Lallemand, who scored 17 points before the long break by scoring inside and finding his way to the free-throw line.

Lallemand finished with 30 points, 11 rebounds and four assists, while wing Jackson Wynne, relishing his new sixth-man role, scored 17 points off the bench as the Panthers withstood a third-quarter comeback by the Thoroughbreds to hang on for a 92-88 win.

Sitting fourth on the ladder, the division two men will play third-placed Pakenham in a Saturday night blockbuster from 8pm at RB Robson Stadium in a game with big finals implications.

Wallan’s youth league division two women, who exacted revenge for an earlier loss to Wangaratta North East Bushrangers with a 76-48 win on Sunday, will host Melton at 6pm on Saturday in a curtain-raiser to the men’s game, while the youth league division two men will be on the road against Melton on Sunday.

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