HALFWAY through the second quarter at the Bendigo Stadium on Saturday night, the WNBL clash between the Bendigo Bank Spirit and Melbourne looked headed the same way as their previous two meetings this season – a Boomers’ win.
The Boomers led by 18 points and had almost doubled the Spirit’s score with their 38-20 advantage after Alice Kurnek nailed a three-pointer.
But in a stunning turnaround in front of a raucous home crowd, the Spirit overcame their sluggish start to haul in the Boomers and record an 81-74 victory against what has been their bogey side this season.
From 18 points down with 5:21 left in the second quarter, the Spirit ended the term on a 19-8 run to close the margin to seven points at half-time, 46-39.
Having fought their way back into the match, the Spirit then continued their momentum with their most dominant third quarter of the season.
The Spirit opened the quarter on a 12-2 run, and when Kelsey Griffin connected on a three-point shot with 6:52 left, Bendigo hit the front and wouldn’t surrender the advantage for the rest of the game.
By three quarter-time the Spirit had built a 10-point buffer on the back of a 26-9 term.
The Boomers closed to within three points three times during the last quarter, but each time the Spirit answered the challenge to keep Melbourne at bay to notch the win and improve their record to 11-7, although, they remain in fifth position
“Going into half-time we had the momentum going our way, and then we had a great third quarter that was the clincher,” Spirit coach Simon Pritchard said.
Gabe Richards was brilliant for the Spirit in scoring a game-high 32 points on 14-of-16 shooting from the field during which she didn’t miss in the second half.
“Gabe was outstanding for us and in that second half the girls kept getting the ball to her and she didn’t miss,” Pritchard said.
“It’s not like they were uncontested shots… she was in sensational form and her touch was just unbelievable.”
Richards, who also hauled down nine rebounds, teamed well with Kelly Wilson, who dished out 11 assists to go with her 13 points.
Belinda Snell added 15 points, including three three-pointers, while Griffin had a double-double of 13 points and 11 rebounds.
The leading scorer for the Boomers was former Spirit player Maddie Garrick with 22 points.
After back-to-back wins in the new year, the Spirit get another chance to refresh with next weekend off.
Their season resumes on January 22 with a home game against Sydney Uni.