By Jordyn Grubisic
Wallan Panthers men scored back-to-back wins at the weekend – the first against Wodonga Wolves on Saturday and then over Myrtleford Saints in overtime on Sunday.
In the opening quarter against Wodonga, the Panthers led 21 to 17 before heading into halftime up by 10.
Wallan continued its dominance 70 to 53 before a final fourth quarter push saw the Panthers win 105 to 82.
Wallan head coach Scott Baillie said they struggled find form in the first quarter.
“But then we started settling and got into that groove and have that mentality we’ve been working on at training to help turn the game around and take with the comfortable win,” he said.
“It’s the mentality side of things which has been promising for a long time. To turn around as a group – not just individuals – and come together to utilise the strengths of each other to change the game’s outcome was incredible.
“It shows the guys that not only is anything possible but at the end of the day the more we play together and utilise each other to our fullest potential, things can come a lot easier.”
Wallan’s Ryan Phillipe was leading scorer with 24 points backed up by Luke Liesegang and Jayden O’Brien with 19 and 16, respectively.
On Sunday, the undersized Panthers – missing Dion Stacey – headed to Myrtleford to face the Saints.
The opening quarter saw the game tied 20-apiece before Myrtleford pulled ahead by one point heading into halftime.
Phillipe was forced to sit out after getting three fouls in the first quarter, with the Panthers trying to preserve him for the rest of the game.
The Saints pulled ahead 71 to 62 at the end of the third term, before a fourth-quarter surge had the Panthers tie the game, 84-apiece, putting it into overtime.
Five fouls by Liesegang – who had 22 points – saw the undersized Panthers even shorter in the crucial final minutes but the remaining players stepped up.
Damon Anderson, Dylan Lombardo, Phillipe, O’Brien and Brody Thrum had played the final minutes of the fourth quarter and Baillie decided to keep them on during overtime.
The overtime game play was a testament to Wallan’s determination and team mindset as the side hit 13 points to Myrtleford’s four to take the win 97 to 88.
“Honestly Brody Thrum turned around and changed our mindset a little bit during the game,” Baillie said.
“There were a couple of loose balls and he put in that extra effort of diving on them and fighting for the scrappy stuff – the guys noticed the smallest guy on the team was doing it and I think that changed their mindset.
“Anderson and O’Brien usually played in the two or three man position but were able to step up and help with rebounds, while Dylan Lombardo played as a big in the overtime. His athleticism and rebounding definitely helped get us over the line.
“It was definitely a sigh of relief afterwards and I honestly couldn’t be any prouder of the guys for being able to step up in situations like that.
“For those guys to step up in that overtime period and do what they did again – hats off to them.”
In the final round of the CBL’s regular season, Wallan men have another double-header playing Shepparton away on Saturday and Wangaratta home on Sunday.
Wallan’s women went down by 18 points to Albury on Saturday despite a strong comeback effort, before losing to Wodonga by 28 points on Sunday.
Melissa Buckley scored 24 points for the Panthers on Saturday night and backed up her efforts on Sunday with 25, while Olivia Woods and Chloe Mott shot 16 and 11 points respectively in the game against Wodonga.