The Bendigo Spirit’s WNBL finals chances took a hit tonight with a 74-82 loss to Dandenong.
The win gives the Rangers a critical season series advantage over the Spirit, having won two of the three clashes between the sides this season.
Dandenong controlled the contest throughout, shooting an even 50 per cent from the field and going 21-of-22 at the free throw line on its way to victory.
After the Rangers jumped out to an early lead Bendigo hit the front midway through the third quarter at 52-50 after Belinda Snell hit from deep.
It did not take Dandenong long to find an answer though, as the Rangers ripped off an 8-0 to reclaim the lead.
Jacinta Kennedy beat the buzzer to give the Rangers a five-point advantage heading into the final frame, a lead quickly pushed out to eight points as Annalise Pickrel and Steph Cumming opened the term strongly for the hosts.
The Spirit brought the margin back to four after Belinda Snell canned a three pointer with 1:30 left in the game, but Pickrel found an answer to take the margin back out to six points.
Bendigo got buckets from Kerryn Harrington and Kelly Wilson down the stretch, but the Rangers were cool and collected as the Spirit sent them to the free throw line and were able to ice the game as Cumming knocked down her seventh and eighth shots at the line.
Bendigo was led by Kelsey Griffin who scored 23 points despite an injury scare in the third term which saw her leave the court after diving for a loose ball before returning.
Gabe Richards added 15 points and nine rebounds while Kelly Wilson had 12 points and nine assists.
Cumming paced Dandenong with 23 points on 7-of-11 shooting, while former Spirit forward Sara Blicavs scored 16 and Lauren Scherf added 14 off the bench.
“I think that was a bit of fun to coach, that was two teams who really went at it tonight and I’m thrilled to come away with the win,” Dandenong coach Larissa Anderson said post match.
“That’s a really important head to head to us that gives us that one game buffer in third spot.”
Bendigo falls to 12-8 on the season following the loss while Dandenong consolidates third spot with a 13-7 record