WALLAN showed it can match the best teams in the Big V women’s division two competition, taking out top side Altona on Sunday afternoon.
The 9-5 Panthers have endured ups and downs this season, at times playing shorthanded due to injuries and unavailability, but showed their potential in the 75-62 win against the Gators.
With three members of Wallan’s youth league division two women bolstering the ranks, the Panthers leapt out of the gate with a 27-16 first quarter.
In the absence of guard Kaitlyn Wakartschuk, Wallan leaned on Kaitlyn Bickerton, who finished with a game-high 23 points on 11-19 shooting.
Bickerton also grabbed 10 rebounds to finish with a double-double, but was far from the only contributor, with Jacinta and Sarah Scott, 14 points each, and Olivia Dalmau, 13 points, filling out the score sheet.
Coach Carey Papanicolaou said it was a ‘great performance’ by a team that was still shorthanded.
“It was great to beating the top team considering that ‘Waka’ couldn’t play for personal reasons, and … Amber [Scott is still] overseas,” he said.
“They’re all playing for each other, which is great. A couple of the girls on the bench didn’t get much of an opportunity in the second half, but that’s okay – they’re coming back from injuries.”
With a road game against winless Collingwood on Saturday night, Papanicolaou said the Panthers’ finals prospects were firmly in their control.
“First of all we want to try to make the finals. If we can win another two I think we should definitely secure a spot,” he said.
“Collingwood has been struggling, but you can’t take anyone lightly. We’re going to be low on numbers because the youth league girls are going away to Albury.
“The week after we’ve got a double-header against Mornington and Corio.
“I think we can do a bit of damage and go deep in the finals if we get there, but it’s still going to be a big effort. We’ve just got to keep playing the way we’ve been playing and everything else will look after itself.”
The Panthers’ division two men came up short against second-placed Pakenham at home on Saturday night, losing 71-82 in a game in which star import Arcaim Lallemand was limited to just 12 minutes with foul trouble.
Lallemand was limited to just six points and seven rebounds as fellow starters Abraham Solano, 16 points, Jordan Hockley, 15, Tyler Best, 12, and Jaak Ponsford, 10, were left to pick up the scoring slack.
The biggest difference proved to be bench scoring, with Pakenham substitute Alistair Parker, 15 points, outscoring the Panthers’ bench on his own.
Wallan remains in the top five on percentage alone and faces its biggest test of the season with a road game against ladder leader Gippsland United on Saturday night.
Wallan’s youth league division two women continued their dominance, downing Melton 101-36 to remain in second place on the ladder, while the youth league division two men earned their fourth win of the season, beating Melton 97-74.
The youth league men will play Sunbury in a road game at 1pm on Sunday, with the youth league women set to travel to Albury to take on the Albury Wodonga Bandits at 12pm on Sunday.