Bendigo Spirit coach Simon Pritchard has foreshadowed changes to his starting line-up in the wake of four straight WNBL losses.
Despite patches of good form on the weekend in Townsville and Canberra, the Spirit (10-9) slumped to sixth position on the league ladder.
Their place in fourth spot was taken by Townsville (11-8) after a loss on Friday night, while the fall was exacerbated when the Spirit were beaten by the Capitals (10-8) on Saturday.
Pritchard said the team had at the start of the season identified the Townsville-Canberra road double as likely the toughest trip away this season and so it proved.
The second-year coach delivered a blunt assessment of the importance of this weekend’s game against seventh-placed Melbourne Boomers.
“Saturday night is a must win for us – it’s an absolute must win,” he said.
“There is no doubt about it.
“We will look real hard at the line-up against Melbourne because they are a very small line-up and we’ve got to be careful to not go too big.
“I’m thinking of shaking up our starting line-up because we can’t go with the same method that has lost us four games in a row.
“We have to change our method and process if we are going to get a different outcome.”
Pritchard said there was some hope point guard Kerryn Harrington would return from the hip injury that has sidelined her for the past three games and most of a fourth game, albeit in a limited role.
“She did her first on-court work for a few weeks (Monday) night, but only individual,” he said.
“She’s coming to team training tonight, but we have to ramp her training load up so maybe she can handle 10 minutes on the weekend of intensity basketball.
“But we always have that risk of going to fast with her. But that 10 minutes (court time) would be good for us in terms of tempo.”
If there is any solace for the Spirit in defeat, it’s in the WNBL schedule.
The weeks ahead dish up two games against the Boomers, who have won only four of their 18 games, and return bouts against Townsville, in Bendigo, and Canberra away.
It is increasingly likely the Spirit’s finals fate will not be known until the completion of their final game against Perth Lynx at Bendigo Stadium on February 19.
A 1-1 split on the weekend against Sydney Uni and Melbourne has left the Lynx (11-7) one win ahead of the Spirit.
“If you are going to play finals you will always need to beat Townsville, Canberra and Perth,” Pritchard said.
“So in terms of where we are at, we are still in a reasonable situation, but we have to win, it’s that simple.
“And the two most riskiest games are those Melbourne games.”
The biggest crowd of the season is expected at Bendigo Stadium this Saturday, with the clash coinciding with the Bendigo Basketball Association’s junior classic tournament.