THEY might be in second place on the WNBL, but the Bendigo Bank Spirit are adamant their best basketball is ahead of them.
The Spirit moved a game clear of nearest rival Perth Lynx after a 15-point victory over Sydney Uni Flames on Saturday night.
It was a convincing, but patchy win over a team that has caused the Spirit their fair share of headaches this season, with a 26-15 final quarter sealing the deal.
“The way we finished was great, but I wasn’t really happy with our performance early on,” coach Simon Pritchard said.
“They gave us a heap of opportunities and I don’t think we took advantage of that.
“There was a lot of loose balls early on and some situations that we fell over each other and gave them some easy scores.
“I felt we should have been up by more at half time and wasn’t particularly happy with our first half.
“Eventually we did lift our game and the defence in the third quarter – Heather Oliver and Blake Dietrick came on and really upped the defensive pressure.”
Pritchard remains convinced that WNBL followers are yet to see the best of the Spirit this season and that better times were ahead.
It’s a view shared by star import Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe, who while quieter than normal on the offensive front with eight points, contributed a season-high and potentially-career-high five steals.
“Friday night’s game (against Canberra) is extremely important,” she said.
“We’d like to keep that second place, but we know we have plenty of good basketball ahead of us.”
The 25-year-old Canadian has been one of the recruits of the season, averaging team-highs in points (16.64) and rebounds (8.36) through 14 games.
Despite a quieter game against the Flames, Raincock-Ekunwe said she was happy how her first WNBL season was panning out.
“It’s been very consistent across the games and that’s what I wanted to do coming in,” she said.
“I didn’t take many shots this past weekend in Sydney, but that’s okay, a few other payers stepped up and really had great games.
“We have so many people who are capable of getting into double digits and scoring 15 to 20 points.
“Every weekend you don’t know who is going to be our leading scorers.”
With the Spirit’s next game after this weekend not until January 7, Raincock-Ekunwe and fellow import Dietrick will get to travel home for Christmas.
For the Canadian Olympian that means a trip to her mother’s in British Colombia.
“I’m flying home Saturday … it will be a 24-hour travel day, but I’m so excited to go back to my family and friends and the snow,” she said.
“I will spend Christmas day at my mum’s house in Penticton, a small town about six-hours drive from Vancouver.
“We’ll have a family dinner with turkey and ham and it will be a white Christmas.”
Tip-off for Friday night’s game in Bendigo is 7.30pm.