A FAMILIAR, but formidable foe awaits the Bendigo Bank Spirit this Sunday at the Bendigo Stadium. Buoyed by a huge win against top of the ladder South East Queensland Stars, the Spirit (5-3) play host to the fourth-placed Perth Lynx (4-2).
It is the third time the Women’s National Basketball League rivals have faced off in the four weeks. The Spirit holds a 2-0 advantage over its Western Australian counterpart, with a win apiece at home and in Perth.
Coach Simon Pritchard said he was expecting both teams to adopt a different approach after the Spirit had the better of their two previous encounters.
“They way we have defended them the last two times has been quite good – we’ve kept them to two reasonable scores,” he said. “We will go in with the same defensive plan, but offensively we are going to attack them a bit differently.
“We’re hoping to get slightly more out of our players with a different structure and they’ll need to be more reactive. “They’ll want to get the win, so you you’d think they have to try something different.”
The Spirit have the luxury of a full week’s break, while Perth will host the Dandenong Rangers (4-2) on Friday night before heading east the following day. Last year’s runner-up boasts an impeccable record in Bendigo this season, with three wins from as many outings.
When the sides clashed in round two, Gabe Richards and Kelsey Griffin dominated the frontcourt, with a combined 33 points and 20 boards as the Spirit careered to a 16 point win.
Richards again enters the game in devastating form, on the back of a 33 point, 10 rebounds, three blocks and one steal performance against South East Queensland.
Guards Belinda Snell and Kelly Wilson were the architects behind the Spirits second win against the Lynx, with 19 and 16 points respectively.
Pritchard said the biggest challenge for the Spirit lied in eliminating the “peaks and valleys” in performance that had plagued their early season.
“That applies to most teams in the first third of the season, just trying to find some consistency,” he said. “We’re not alone, but the first team that gets that sorted is the team that will get a jump on all others. “I hope that can be us.”
Curbing the influence of Lynx forward Louella Tomlinson and guard Sami Whitcomb will be priorities for the Spirit. Whitcomb is averaging 17.5 points a game, including a haul of 36 against Dandenong, but was kept well in check by Wilson in their previous match-up at Bendigo Stadium.
Tip-off Sunday is 2pm.