CBL 2019/20 - Season Review
What an incredible CBL season we have had, winning our first championship and also
seeing the return of the Women's team straight into a finals series.
The season kicked off before tryouts with coach Ben Whyte taking on the challenge to start building toward a Womens Youth League team by re-entering Wallan into the CBL competition after a 2 year hiatus. Originally we saw it as a way to expose our next generation to senior basketball, so the aim was to ensure the girls enjoyed the season, built some chemistry as a team and grew their competitiveness at a senior level. That soon changed as Ben pulled together a great mix of the future surrounded by experience from the likes of Karina Marasco, Nicola Stewart and Carley Cranston.
Despite a lot of the girls having never played together before this season, they were able to come together during the preseason to learn the structures that Ben put in place with the hope to make them competitive in their first season back. To the girls credit, the results were immediate with the girls winning their first 3 games and another 6 game streak heading into christmas to eventually go on to finish the season with a 9-2-1 record. In the end they just fell just short in a tough semi final against Seymour, in what would have been a well deserved Grand Final appearance after such a successful regular season.
There were a lot of highs during the season with come from behind wins, tight wins and stand out performances. But perhaps the highlight was the round 9 victory against Seymour at Seymour in what was a very high quality game of Women's basketball, hard and tough but with great skills on show. The girls were challenged all night with scores very tight throughout, but they were able to hold on in an exciting finish taking a 7 point win. There was also the massive win over Benalla by an historic margin in round 8 at home and a 33 point individual performance from Carley Cranston in Round 3 against Seymour at home.
Looking at the stats, it was Carley Cranston who was the standout and frankly an unfortunate oversight as an all star nomination. She averaged 18pts per game while Karina averaged 10 and Nicola and Amber averaged 9, playing huge inside roles all season. We also had more depth than perhaps we originally expected as the likes of Macey Byrnes, Sarah Wakefield and Cerina Bellino all provided valuable experience and minutes and of course the mentorship of Erin Mifsud and Lily Spratling being invaluable around the team.
With all that we still got to see a great glimpse into the future with the emergence of juniors like Kasey Lennox, Melissa Buckley, Kaitlyn Bikerton, Katarina Kekez and sisters Olivia and Hayley Sultana all contributing at various stages across the season. The younger girls really showed that they were capable of playing at the CBL level and hopefully with another winter VJBL season the girls can come back next summer looking to play bigger roles as they prepare for hopefully the inaugural Panthers Women’s Youth League in 2021.
In all a great return to CBL for the Women, creating excitement for what the future holds for our senior women's program.
Coming off being last season runners up the expectations were high for Tim and the men's team heading into 2020 and they did not let us down.
Optimism was high with Leo Viitala returning to Wallan to play alongside his brother Max, a combination that was a joy to witness all season long. In addition the younger brigade had a year more experience in them and club stalwart Luke Liesegang returned along with CBL regulars like Jaak Ponsford and Linc Stewart.
This story was all about the perfect season, going 14-0, and bringing home the clubs first senior championship after just 6 years for senior ball.
In a season of highs a highlight was our first win over Seymour and Seymour in what ended up as a preview to the grand final. Also seeing the progression within the group with the likes of Jordan Sullivan regularly taking the point in the starting 5 and the emergence of the likes Jayden O’Brien and Ryan Philippe taking regular minutes. But perhaps the real clincher was our depth, a strong core with Izzy Mahinay, Dion Stacey and Lachie Rae providing the consistency and support needed in the rotation that was perhaps missing the year before.
Stats wise it was all about the excellent season of Max, Leo and Luke (Sticks). Max took out the season MVP, joining Leo in the All star Five, while Sticks took out the Grand Final MVP.
A great season that developed a game style that the club will double down on as we head to BigV, aggressive defence, strong in transition and fast paced.
Congratulations to both teams on a season the club is very proud of and thank you to our home crowd and volunteers for making it all the more enjoyable.