Bendigo Bank Spirit will regain point guard Kerryn Harrington for their crucial Saturday night encounter against Melbourne Boomers.
The 24-year-old has missed the Spirit’s last three WNBL games and all but the opening minutes of a fourth match with a hip injury.
Her absence has coincided with four straight losses for the Spirit, who have slipped from second spot on the WNBL ladder at the Christmas break to sixth place.
With Harrington sidelined, import Blake Dietrick has been handling the starting duties and performed remarkably.
The American has averaged 12.25 points and 6.4 rebounds as a starter, more than double her season tallies of 6.4 points per game and 2.8 rebounds.
Team captain Kelsey Griffin believed the injection of Harrington would add a much-needed extra layer of depth to the line-up.
“Having even one player in this league can be the difference between some wins and losses,” she said.
“With Kez back we’ll have a bigger depth to our team than we did before Christmas when Blake was still finding her feet and figure out her role.
“I think she has grown heaps in these last few weeks.”
The Spirit confront a Boomers team that has endured three consecutive losses of its own, most recently on Australia Day eve against top side Dandenong Rangers.
It was a result that was in the balance deep into the final quarter, indicating this will be no easy encounter for the Spirit.
Melbourne won the two sides’ earlier season encounter by four points.
Griffin said there was no shortage of Boomers players the Spirit needed to be wary of in their bid to snap their losing streak.
“Maddie Garrick (ex-Spirit) usually steps up pretty big – she likes to come back and play here and plays with a bit of a chip on her shoulder,” she said.
“She’s always done really well against us and we definitely need to look out for her. She’s such a deadly shooter.
“Brittany Smary is an amazing rebounding guard, you really have to be careful with her
“Alice Kunek is an Opals squad member and obviously very talented and proven herself in the WNBL, so they have a lot of different weapons and that’s what makes them dangerous.”
The round 16 game coincides with this week’s Bendigo Junior Classic tournament.
The Spirit drew a record attendance for the corresponding game last season and hope to better that mark on Saturday night.
Tip-off is at 7.30pm.