Road Wins Crucial For WNBL Ladder Leading Bendigo Bank Spirit

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Bendigo Bank Spirit recruit Nadeen Payne says a pair of wins on the road were crucial to setting up the team’s season.

The Spirit rebounded from two straight losses three previous weekend to defeat top side Dandenong Rangers and reigning champions Townsville Fire.

The wins leave the Spirit with a 4-2 record and in top spot on the WNBL ladder, level on wins with Dandenong.

Payne, who averaged 11.5 points and seven rebounds off the bench for the weekend, said the team was stoked to return with two wins, especially in her home town against the defending champions.

“Townsville are always very tough, especially at home with their big crowd,” she said.

“To get wins on the road is really crucial part of the journey in a season – you need to get away wins to be there in finals.

“I had a few people (I know) there and they were cheering for Bendigo whenever we scored, so it was nice.”

While WNBL player of the week Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe led the Spirit with 14 points, more pleasing for Payne and Spirit coach Simon Pritchard was the team’s depth of contributions.

They had six players score eight or more points against the Fire, including 13 from in-form guard Kerryn Harrington, and the same number contributing 10 or more against the Rangers in a high-scoring affair.

Not knowing where the points might come from on any given night is something that is making the Spirit difficult to defend, according to Payne.

“Winning is what’s most important and well all understand that,” she said.

“It’s not about who scores however many points, it’s the score at the end of the game that counts.

“If we can six or seven players scoring nine or so points, that’s what’s going to win us a championship.”

Payne said she had no qualms with her move to the bench; if anything it helped ease the pressure off her.

Pritchard said the decision to start two-time championship centre Gabe Richards was made early last week and felt both players had benefited.

“We thought that it might look like we were blaming someone for the loss on Friday night (against Sydney Uni).

“Nadeen appreciated it and she got a chance to see the game evolve a little bit.

“Once she came him her rebounding was outstanding – some of the rebounds she took looked like Nayo’s.”

The second-year coach believed the side’s two imports, including American point guard Blake Dietrick, would have got the most out of the weekend away.

“I think bringing the whole team together, travelling together and spending 48 hours with no distractions – just us – made a massive difference to us,” he said.

“Blake feels more part of the team, Nayo feels more part of the team and it we are all a bit tighter because of being on the road.

“Blake, we’ve given her a defensive challenge and really put the heat on her to be a terrific defensive player and to get after early ball pick-up and pressure the opposition guard and she did a really good job of that.”

The Spirit continue their season on Saturday night against the University of Canberra Capitals at Bendigo Stadium.

It will be the first foray back to Bendigo Stadium for young Capitals star Keely Froling, who spent the SEABL season with Bendigo Lady Braves.

Tip-off is 7.30pm

Article: Bendigo Advertiser
Photo: Akuna Photography

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