The Spirit have a substantially different team to last year but under new coach Simon Pritchard, and in front of a bumper crowd of 1708, the home side punished the Lynx’s 32 per cent shooting, turning their 12-point half-time lead into 20 points at the final change.
While the Spirit appear to be playing a little faster, what has remained is the core of their two-time championship-winning side and those stars stood tall on Sunday with import Kelsey Griffin and Opals shooter Belinda Snell both scoring a game-high 20 points while Gabe Richards added 13 points and 11 rebounds. Snell shot six three-pointers while Griffin had nine rebounds and teamed with Richards to restrict the Lynx inside as the Spirit won the rebound contest 40-32.
Former Spirit guard turned Lynx signing Tessa Lavey led the visitors with 15 points while Louella Tomlinson and Betnijah Laney added 12 points and six rebounds each. The Lynx came into the game with high hopes after winning their first two games of the season including beating Melbourne Boomers in Melbourne on Saturday night
Richards said she couldn’t be happier with her side’s performance. “There has been a lot of work behind the scenes to work on our home games and improve on what we’ve built in the past few seasons,” Richards said.
“It’s great to come out here and play in front of this crowd. “We’ve surprisingly gelled quite quickly on defence even though we have a new group and to keep them to that sort of score was really pleasing. They’ve completely overhauled their program and have some good wins on the board early – to get on them early was awesome and to build on it was even better because sometimes you get a jump on a team and they crawl their way back into it.”
Richards said the team was still adjusting to Pritchard’s coaching after years under Bernie Harrower. “A lot of us played for Bernie for a long time so his systems were ingrained in us so it’s taken some patience to take these on board,” Richards said.
“We are still working our way through them. Simon likes an up-tempo game and in preseason we struggled to play at two tempos – we would just push and push the ball. “But we have been successful over the years when we slow it down and pick defences apart – we are still learning what our new structures will be.”
Lynx coach Andy Stewart said his side had needed a clash with physical side like the Spirit. “With a new group you would take a 2-1 start but we are disappointed we couldn’t do better today,” Stewart said. “They play a tough, uncompromising style and we haven’t seen enough of that but now we have so we can go back and review it.”
Pritchard said his side had made a good start at home but needed to maintain it next round when they face Dandenong Rangers at Dandenong Stadium on Friday night then come home to host Lauren Jackson and the University of Canberra Capitals on Saturday night.