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Wallan women head to Big V grand final

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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.

The division two Wallan Panthers women clinched a grand final appearance with Saturday’s 11-point win over Blackburn Vikings.

It was a close contest with Wallan trailing by one point at the end of the first quarter, with a Viking layup on the buzzer putting them ahead.

Kylah Collins scored crucial baskets in the first quarter keeping the Panthers in it, including a three-pointer putting them ahead by three with a minute and a half to go.

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The second quarter saw the Panthers have multiple shot attempts where they were unable to finish but despite scoring struggles, they were up by 10-points heading into halftime.

Blackburn’s Isabella Nolen came out firing in the third quarter as the game was back to within one point.

Nolen’s strong rebounding efforts finally gave the Vikings multiple shot attempts in offence, lacking earlier in the game, while her steals often resulted in a score or drawn foul.

However, Wallan remained composed.

A foul on Collins at the buzzer sent her to the free-throw line, making both and putting Wallan ahead by one.

The fourth quarter started with Wallan missing three shot attempts in the same play but despite offensive struggles, the side found its groove.

Collins had two steals and was drawing fouls, heading to the line where she was consistent as Wallan defeated Blackburn 65 to 54.

Winning two out of three games meant Wallan didn’t have to play in a Sunday decider.

Wallan head coach Carey Papanicolaou said it was a terrific game to get to the grand final.

“We knew it was going to be a tough game because they’ve been a pretty good side all year,” he said.

“It was good to just get over the line in the fourth quarter.

“When it got close we just stayed composed and played the way we’ve been playing the last couple of weeks. Full credit to the girls efforts. They saw the game through.”

Affirming her place as a Big V All Star Five and MVP finalist, Collins had a double-double, with 30 points and 18 rebounds.

Papanicolaou said the win was a team effort.

“The players just did what they had to do and filled their roles,” he said.

“A couple of the girls who came off the bench didn’t really get a lot of minutes but the roles they played were really important to the team.”

Wallan’s Olivia Dalmau was also named an All-Star Five and MVP finalist, while Papanicolaou is nominated for Big V division two Coach of the Year.

“It feels pretty good. You know when you get noticed your team is winning,” Papanicolaou said.

“We’ve been working hard all year and I’ve mainly been trying to get the win. If anything happens after that then it’s a good honour, but our priority is to win the grand final.”

Crowd support has been a motivator for the side this season.

“We really appreciate the support we’ve had at home games. That sort of helps the girls get over the line,” Papanicolaou said.

“I’m sure the whole team really appreciates the crowd so I’d like to thank them for the support all season. We’ve got one more game to go.”

Wallan face top-of-the-ladder Gippsland United at Gippsland’s home court on Saturday.

Gippsland won two of the three times the sides faced each other.

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