Spirit burned by Flames

Joel Peterson | Bendigo Weekly | 09-Nov-2017

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Betnijah Laney again played well for Bendigo, despite the heavy loss.
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If it was a sign of what's to come without Kelsey Griffin, the remainder of the Women's National Basketball Season could be a long one for the Bendigo Spirit.

The Spirit were thumped 105-75 in Bendigo tonight by top side Sydney Uni Flames, outscored by 27 points after half time.

After a close-fought first half, the class of the league's reigning champion took hold after the interval.

Bendigo had the game tied at 53 half way through the third quarter, before Katie-Rae Ebzery and Jennifer Hamson keyed a phenomenal 20-1 Flames tear that saw them completely take hold of the contest.

The 105 points are the third most allowed in the club's history, and just the third time an opponent has scored more than 100 points and the first time it has happened twice in the same season.

It is also just the fifth time Bendigo has been beaten by more than thirty points and, again, the first time it has happened twice in the same season.

The barnstorming third quarter from the Flames also saw Nadeen Payne leave the floor to get treatment on a cut to the head.

Coach Simon Pritchard said she would likely have no trouble bouncing back for a game in front of her home crowd in Townsville on Saturday.

Ebzery led all scorers with 26 points as Bendigo simply had no answer for her scything cuts to the basket and midrange game.

Belinda Snell added 20 points and canned five threes, Hamson had 14 points and 11 rebounds and Carly Boag added 18 points for a Flames side that had all the answers for the Griffin-less Spirit.

And well they should have, given Sydney entered the clash top of the table and improved to 7-2 on the season with the win.

"We had the game at 53-all in that third quarter and (Nadeen Payne) goes down with a head injury, and then we make that sub and we just fell apart," he said.

"We didn't work for good shots, we took early shots, and then when we missed three or four shots the defence just fell apart.

"Instead of doing the opposite and bearing down, and trying to be physical, we were lost because we didn't score."

Bendigo started well enough on offence, but a lacklustre defensive showing in the first quarter allowed the Flames to rack up 32 first quarter points.

While the Flames couldn't miss, Bendigo has easy opportunities fluffed through Nadeen Payne and Heather Oliver.

Luckily for the Spirit, Rachel Banham kept them in the contest with three first quarter triples on her way to 21 for the game.

"Without Kelsey who was our leading scorer I think we all needed to step up and we're going to have to do the same without her," she said.

Fellow import Betnijah Laney was also excellent, playing a key defensive role on Flames star Asia Taylor.

Laney restricted Taylor to just 10 points, compared to her season average of more than 19.

She also kept Taylor to just two free throw attempts, while adding 13 points, six rebounds and seven assists at the other end.

Bendigo relied heavily on Banham, but could not keep up defensively with the Flames and was outscored 56-29 after half time.

The point guard led Bendigo in scoring but took a seat late as Simon Pritchard rested his starters ahead of the clash with the Fire on Saturday.

"We want to win games first but where the games are gone and given we have another tough game on Saturday we needed to make sure we had some fresh legs," Pritchard said.

Bendigo is now 2-6 on the season and plays Townsville (5-3) up north on Saturday.

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