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Wallan Panthers survive elimination in Big V showdown

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Jordyn Grubisic
Jordyn Grubisic
Jordyn Grubisic is a senior journalist for the North Central Review primarily covering politics at all levels and sport with a particular interest in basketball. Since 2019 she has worked for several publications across Victoria including most recently at the Alexandra Standard and Yea Chronicle. She is always keen to hear from local community members about issues they face and has an interest in crime and court reporting.

A 23-point win to Wallan Panthers’ men on Sunday has the side heading to the next round of division two finals, after defeating the Mornington Breakers 86 to 63 in an elimination final.

Wallan had another huge game inside with centre Tom O’Connor and power forward Arcaim Lallemand hitting 20 and 22 points respectively.
O’Connor also had 14 rebounds securing another double-double.

Tyler Best had a strong return to the court this week, also hitting a double-double, with 13 points and 12 rebounds.

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A six-point lead by Wallan kicked off the game with Best scoring the opening four points.

The Panthers got on a scoring run, extending their lead by 13 points, and forcing Mornington to call an early timeout with five and a half minutes remaining in the first quarter.

Wallan was relentless in offence for the rest of the quarter with O’Connor showing his shooting range, hitting two three-pointers.

Closing out the quarter, leading 27 to 11, the Panthers had created a comfortable lead – all part of the game plan for head coach Tim Annett.

“We had a really good first quarter, which was our aim and the game sort of fell our way from there,” he said.

Mornington came out strong in the second quarter scoring two quick baskets, prompting a Wallan timeout.

The Breakers continued to score as Wallan struggled to back up its first quarter efforts with missed baskets.

An early lead gave the Panthers some breathing room and a step-back three-pointer by captain Keenan Gorski brought the game back out to a nine-point lead.

During the second quarter, play flipped as it was Wallan having a scoring run as Mornington struggled to maintain its offensive momentum with missed baskets and failing to secure second or third efforts with rebounds.

Both sides struggled to put baskets away in the final minutes of the second quarter heading into halftime with the Panthers leading 38 to 26.

The third quarter had another strong start with the Breakers hitting back-to-back baskets before Lallemand scored from two layups.

Point guard Dominic Bruno had a great period of play, where he grabbed a defensive rebound off his missed shot to finish with a three-point play from a foul-drawing layup.

It seemed as one side scored, the other couldn’t buy a basket as both sides struggled to find consistency in offence.

But Gorski hit a pull-up jump shot in the final seconds before Mornington scored to close out the third quarter, with Wallan up 61 to 47.

Wallan’s Lincoln Stewart opened the fourth quarter with a three-point jump-shot and a layup off a steal forcing another Mornington timeout.

The Breakers continued to experience difficulty to score, while Wallan capitalised on its momentum, extending its margin to eventually win the game.

Annett said using their height was part of the Panthers’ game plan.

“Once again, using our size was our emphasis going into the game,” he said.

“We felt like we had an advantage and the whole team worked well to get Tom and Arcaim the ball, and they finished the job for us.

“Tyler Best being back definitely made a difference at both ends of the floor and on the rebounding side of things. He had a great first quarter for us, really setting the tone and he’s sort of our best defender so we definitely welcomed him back.”

The Panthers face the long trip to Mildura to play the Mildura Heat on Saturday.

“Obviously it’s not an ideal trip being so far away but we’re definitely going into the game confident,” Annett said.

“We had a very close loss to them earlier in the year in Mildura when we were short a couple of players and then we beat them quite comfortably at home, but their main player got injured during that game so it’s been a little bit hard to match up whose the better team.

“We’re quietly confident we’ve got all the weapons to get the job done.”

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