THE Bendigo Bank Spirit will look to consolidate its winning form in this weekend’s home game against a struggling Sydney Uni Flames.
After four rounds and six matches of the 2018/19 women’s national basketball season, the Spirit sits in third position on the ladder with four wins and two losses.
Last weekend, the side stood up to the pressure of a redemption game and tallied up a win against the Adelaide Lightning (70-52), leading in all four quarters.
The physical contest followed a 63-91 defeat in Adelaide just six days prior, and will help erase the memories of a disappointing road trip that also saw the side lose narrowly in Perth.
With an impressive return to Bendigo’s home court, Nat Hurst proved once again she is here to lead the Spirit in their 2018/19 campaign.
Against the Lightning, she defied her stature as the second shortest player on the Spirit roster to record a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds in addition to two assists and a steal.
The Spirit set up the victory with a 17-8 run to open the game and Hurst was instrumental in the start, recording four points, two rebounds, an assist and a steal in just nine minutes.
For the game, she struggled to find her shot from inside the arc but proved damaging from the three-point line where she drained 4-8, out-scoring Adelaide by herself from long range.
Her defensive work, along with the entire Spirit team, was exceptional as well with Bendigo claiming a 70-52 win while Hurst helped keep Nicole Seekamp and Lauren Nicholson to 14 combined points on 6-17 shooting.
MVP Abbey Wehrung had the X factor of the game, putting pressure on the Lightning and utilising her speed on offence and ability to contain defensively.
On Melbourne Cup Eve, Spirit travelled to the State Basketball Centre to play the star-studded Melbourne Boomers in one of the biggest games of the season.
With all the confidence of Saturday’s upset and a round one win against the Boomers, the Bendigo side were the underdogs to take it out.
Spirit were prepared and took home a two point victory (60-58), with Hurst once again proving to have a decisive influence on the game as she racked up 25 points, two steals and five rebounds. Hurst was at her inspirational best as she led her team to a sweep of the weekend to claim Player of the Week honours.
Hurst was highly efficient, scoring a personal season-high with 25 points on 9-12 shooting, including 6-6 from two-point range and 4-4 from the free-throw line.
She added another three makes from beyond the arc and now leads the league in that category after four rounds while also recording five boards, an assist and two steals on Monday night.
In a close battle, the lead changed hands 15 times throughout the game and with just over eight minutes to go, Bendigo found themselves trailing by five points.
Hurst was not going to be denied though, scoring eight of the Spirit’s last 10 points, including two three-pointers, before Abbey Wehrung hit the go-ahead basket that would win Bendigo the game, 60-58.
Having played her entire career before this season with the University of Canberra Capitals, Hurst has fitted in seamlessly with the Spirit and despite surpassing the 250-game milestone and being 35 years of age, she continues to perform as one of the league’s top guards. Nadeen
Payne made her own mark on the match with 12 points, nine rebounds and a steal.
Newcomer Barbara Turner is also proving just how valuable her signature is to the Spirit line, and continues to show improvement as she settles into the Spirit line up.
The Spirit are back on home soil on Sunday, from 2pm against the Sydney Uni Flames, who are hungry for their first win of the WNBL 2018/19 season.