WHILE Wallan Panthers’ senior men and women faltered in the penultimate round of the Big V basketball season, its youth league division two women remained on track for a top-two finish after a big win against Whittlesea.
The young Panthers hosted the Pacers needing a win to stay ahead of third-placed Coburg and got off to a dream start with 18 straight points, eight of which came from Olivia Dalmau.
While Whittlesea fought admirably to draw within 11 points halfway through the third quarter, the Panthers were never seriously challenged en route to an 89-57 victory.
Coach Ben Whyte said the game furthered Dalmau’s case for winning the division’s most valuable player award after she finished with 33 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and four steals, but paid tribute to the all-around play of his team.
Every player scored during the win, including guard Ruby Pantisano with 14 points and reserve centre Tamsyn Kirk with 11 points off the bench.
“It was a really good performance, and we’ve strung a couple of them together now after a tight overtime win against Albury-Wodonga last week,” Whyte said.
“It was a really well-rounded performance by the team. Olivia put her credentials forward as the MVP for the youth league division two, but it was a great team game and everyone contributed.”
The result sets up a top-of-the-table road game against Bellarine in the final round of the season, with the Panthers needing a win to ensure a second-place finish.
Wallan lost to Bellarine by 28 points in round seven, a performance Whyte said failed to reflect the skill of his team.
“There is an extra carrot dangling in front of us this week – if we win we cement second spot, but if we lose we find ourselves playing in an elimination final the week after,” he said.
“I know the girls are keen to avenge that loss at home to Bellarine and level the season ledger to one all.
“The big thing we learned and worked on from that clash is our defensive intensity – we want to make them put up tough shots and reward ourselves on the defensive end.
“It would give us real confidence knowing that if we were to make the grand final and have to play Bellarine, we can get the job done away from home.”
Wallan’s division two men and women both remain on track to play finals but came away empty handed in round 17, with the men losing 82-99 to Mornington on the road and the women dropping back-to-back road games against Mornington, 46-109, and Corio Bay, 64-74.
The Panthers’ men led by a point at half time, but foul trouble limited Arcaim Lallemand, 22 points, to less than 25 minutes, and while Jordan Hockley, 15, Abraham Solano, 17, and Lincoln Stewart, 12, all shot well from the outside, the visitors could do little to contain Mornington’s offense.
The Wallan women were behind from the outset in their 63-point loss to Mornington, with only Jacinta Scott, 12 points, reaching double figures.
They fared better against Corio Bay on Sunday, but were overwhelmed in the last quarter despite bounce-back games from Kaitlyn Wakartschuk and Kaitlyn Bickerton, 14 points each.
Wallan’s division two youth league men nabbed their fifth win of the season in a 92-89 thriller against Mornington in front of a home crowd, with starters Sebastian Villegas and Jayden O’Brien combining for 40 points and Dylan Lombardo adding 16 off the bench.
In the final round of the season the Panthers’ men will play Mildura in a road game on Saturday night, the women will be away to Coburg, the youth league men will travel to Chelsea and the youth league women will play a Sunday afternoon game at Bellarine Sports Centre.