For Bendigo Spirit Coach Simon Pritchard, tomorrow night’s home clash against the Melbourne Boomers is the team’s biggest game of the year.
It comes following the Spirit’s disappointing weekend on the road, going down by 20 points against the Townsville Fire last Friday, before coming off second best to the Canberra Capitals on Saturday.
“We’re disappointed that we didn’t compete better in the first half against Townsville,” Pritchard said.
“It’s a very tough environment to win up there, and getting ourselves down by 10 points in the first quarter made it basically impossible for us to get back.”
Pritchard believed the Spirit played well in Canberra the following day, despite going down by 14 points.
“We had a great start, pretty much lead the whole game. With six minutes to go we were still tied up – and then we just ran out of legs.”
He said playing two games within 23 hours, as well as being up from 4.30am on Saturday morning to travel to Canberra, was a factor in the weekend’s performance.
Forward Nadeen Payne agreed.
“We really didn’t play well (against Townsville). We weren’t ready… they came out from the get-go, and the first six possessions, we weren’t there,” she said.
“But with the Canberra game, we really stepped it up. We stepped our defence up, we stepped everything up. We played good basketball. We left everything on the court – so it was really hard to lose that game,” she said.
The Spirit lead at half time, and were level with the Capitals at the start of the fourth quarter.
“They (Canberra) just rode the momentum (in the fourth quarter),” she said.
“I think a few of us were very tired as well. So I think that probably that fatigue set in… that was a really tough roadtrip.”
But now, all eyes for the Spirit are on Saturday’s encounter with the Boomers.
“If we lose this weekend, it will pretty much be the end of the season,” Pritchard said.
“This is a final for us.”
He said the team will be looking at the way they’re playing at training this week.
“We can’t keep doing the same thing. We’ve lost the last four games,” he said.
“…we’ll look at some change ups to the way we play our lineup, and the way we compete against Melbourne.
“They’re a slightly different makeup, in terms of being a smaller team.”
The WNBL ladder is close – with the Spirit sitting at sixth place with 10 wins, one spot above the Boomers.
“If we beat Melbourne, I don’t know that we’ll step up this week (on the ladder). But again the results are all over the place,” he said.
“We’ve got to win all five (remaining) games, to get ourselves in finals. It’s that simple.”
Perth and Townsville sit at third and fourth position respectively with eleven wins each, and Canberra at fifth with 10.
“Drop one, particularly against Melbourne, and then we’re done. We don’t have a good record against Perth in terms of a three way tie. So if Canberra, Perth and us were all on a three way tie, we wouldn’t have point spread there, and if Townsville came third say, and visa-versa. There’s so many combinations at the moment, that it’s really just too hard to tell where it’s going to pan out,” Pritchard said.
“If we can beat Melbourne, give us some energy to go on into the next game, then anything’s possible,” he said.
Tip off is at 7.30pm tomorrow at the Bendigo Stadium.