Bendigo Bank Spirit coach Simon Pritchard says his starting line-up for this weekend’s pivotal WNBL clash against Townsville Fire is likely to remain match-up based.
The second-year coach opted for a dual-point guard line-up in Saturday night’s 76-69 victory over Melbourne Boomers, with boom import Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe starting the game on the bench.
The Canadian Olympian responded to the move in the best possible way, scoring a season-high 27 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.
Pritchard said any decision on his starters against the Fire would not be made until Thursday after training.
But a bounty of quality talls for the Fire in four-time WNBL most valuable player Suzy Batkovic, former WNBA draftee Kayla Standish and two-time championship player Mia Murray is sure to play in the import’s favour.
Pritchard agreed it was a bold move to bench his star, but was rapt to see her respond with a big performance.
“She hadn’t been performing like she had in the first part of the season and we felt (against Melbourne) Gabe would do the better job,” he said.
“This week is a completely different scenario because they have Suzy, who has size, and Gabe is a good match-up for her, Kelsey has a good match-up with Mia Murray, and Nayo will have a good match-up with Kayla Standish.
“That begs the question do we go with the same line-up – maybe we look at changing that again and taking one of the guards out.
“We hadn’t changed our starting line-up for any reason other than injury and probably that’s a weakness for us.
“We probably should be flipping people around to make sure we start the game well.
“The first part of the season we started all our quarters well, post-Christmas we’ve started poorly, so we had to do something – you can’t just do the same thing.”
For her part, Raincock-Ekunwe said there were no worries with missing the start against Melbourne.
“I told myself it’s not who starts, it’s who finishes the game, so I wasn’t really too fazed about sitting on the bench at the start,” she said.
“I kind of liked being able to see the pace of the game and how Melbourne was defending our players.
“It seemed to work. I would say it was almost my best game since being here, I definitely took a lot more shots than I have been taking all season.
“I’d definitely like to keep playing like I did on the weekend, but maybe take a few smarter shots.”
The Spirit enter week 17 in fifth place on the WNBL ladder with an identical 11-9 record to fourth-placed Townsville.
Canberra (10-9) is a further win back, but with a game in hand.
Raincock-Ekunwe acknowledged the equation to reach finals was simple for the Spirit – keep winning.
“That will be extremely hard, but I am confident we can do that,” she said.