WNBL action returns to Bendigo Stadium this weekend, when the Bendigo Spirit looks to avenge two away losses in a must-win clash against the Adelaide Lightning.
The Spirit will also be out to avenge last weekend’s 91-63 defeat at the hands of Adelaide, and will need to curb the damaging Nia Coffey whose game high 21 points in Sunday’s encounter helped seal the Lightning’s victory.
Speaking on ABC Radio earlier this week, Bendigo Spirit coach Simon Pritchard said his charges had started the game against Adelaide well, but lost focus as the contest wore on.
“We were 21-17 at quarter time, then it was 35-34, just a one point game at half time,” he said.
“The girls had really carried over what we’d done in Perth but we just didn’t stay focussed through the third quarter.”
Bendigo was left to rue missed opportunities at crucial periods of the match, and will need to re-group before Saturday night’s encounter.
“We just lost our focus and I think that’s the thing we’ve taken away, from the weekend… we really have to stay focussed on what we’re trying to do and not get distracted by what the other team’s doing.”
Earlier, the Spirit also lost against Perth 77-72 on Friday night of the tough away trip, but Pritchard said his team showed great determination to get back into the game after a slow start against the Lynx.
“After half time we really knuckled down and I think in the third quarter we were 26-9 and got the game back in control and with five minutes to go it was a five point game.”
The Spirit’s comeback saw Kara Tessari hit consecutive three-pointers and Louella Tomlinson (16 points, eight rebounds) add four points in a fast-paced final term.
Perth scored 12 points from turnovers compared to Bendigo’s two, while against Adelaide the Spirit managed 15 points from turnovers to Adelaide’s 14.
Pritchard said the Spirit was still learning how to adjust its game to suit recently arrived star import Barb Turner, and allow her to have a stronger influence on court.
“We’re going to have to tweak some of our offences this week.”
The dominance and consistency of star players Louella Tomlinson, Nadeen Payne and Natalie Hurst have been a vital ingredient in each match, and coach Pritchard will be looking for improvements and more impact from Turner as she continues to settle into the team.
Hurst joined an exclusive club in reaching the 250-game milestone during last Friday’s game against the Lynx.
The 49th player to hit the mark, Hurst spent a majority of her career with the University of Canberra Capitals and is the only player to be a part of seven WNBL championships with the club.
After four matches of the 2018/19 WNBL season, Bendigo sits at two wins and an equal number of losses. Bendigo Spirit play the Adelaide Lightning at Bendigo Stadium from 7pm, on Saturday, November 3.
The side then backs up to play the Melbourne Boomers in the pre-Melbourne Cup clash at the State Basketball Centre on Monday, November 5 from 7.30pm, in what shapes as one of the games of the season.
– Peter Kennedy