The Dandenong Rangers ended a six-year WNBL drought in Bendigo on Sunday in a game where they at one stage held the Spirit scoreless for more than 10 minutes.
It was the Rangers’ first win at the Bendigo Stadium since October 15, 2010, with Dandenong having lost its previous 10 trips up the Calder.
The defining period of the game was a 17-0 run unleashed by the Rangers as they made the Spirit look second-rate.
The scores had been locked together at 55-all when the Spirit’s Ashleigh Karaitiana made a free-throw with 5:36 left in the third quarter.
However, the Spirit wouldn’t score again until 5:31 left in the final quarter when Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe banked in a tough shot under pressure.
In between the Spirit – who got only five points from its bench – missed 12-straight field-goal attempts, a pair of free-throws to Karaitiana, and turned the ball over six times.
While the Spirit did end the game on a 14-5 run, it didn’t hide the fact that when the contest was up for grabs and there to be won, it was the Rangers – backing up off a win over Sydney on Saturday night – that proved far superior.
The defining period of the game was a 17-0 run unleashed by the Rangers
The Rangers led 46-44 at half-time – their tally at the main break already more than their previous trip to Bendigo on October 15 when they scored just 44 points.
The Spirit scoring featured a season-high 19 points from Gabe Richards, nine of which came in the first quarter.
Raincock-Ekunwe (17 points, 12 rebounds) – who again played like she had springs in her shoes with the way she soared under the basket – and captain Kelsey Griffin (19 points, 10 rebounds) both had double-doubles.
The efforts of Raincock-Ekunwe and Griffin helped the Spirit dominate the rebound count 42-35.
Raincock-Ekunwe was a perfect nine-of-nine from the free-throw line, while overall the Spirit was 20-of-24 from the charity stripe.
Griffin scored nine of her points in the second quarter when she connected on three three-pointers.
The Rangers’ scoring was led by former Spirit player Sara Blicavs (20), who kickstarted Dandenong’s 17-0 run with a three-pointer.
Sunday’s loss leaves the Spirit with an 8-5 record ahead of a trip to Sydney this Saturday night to take on the Flames, who they have already lost twice to.
Dandenong improved to 9-3 with the win.