BENDIGO Bank Spirit coach Simon Pritchard is demanding a lift in defensive intensity in this weekend’s round of WNBL matches.
The first-year mentor did not pull any punches in the wake of a 73-86 loss to the Perth Lynx at Bendigo Stadium on Sunday.
Pritchard said he was hugely disappointed with the way in which is players applied themselves defensively against the Lynx.
“We are seeking reasons and still in the process of talking to players about what was going on,” he said.
“It’s hard to know how they can play so little defence – it was just non-existent with players either standing next to their player and not helping out, or just simply not putting any pressure on the ball at all.
“It was bizarre, and then to come out without a major change in game plan and be so competitive in the second half, it’s really disappointing.”
The Spirit uncharacteristically trailed by as much as 17 points in the second quarter and, according to Pritchard, spent “a lot of energy” reducing the margin to five points in the third term.
“The girls were spent and we had no energy left.,” he said.
The loss dropped the Spirit to sixth on the WNBL ladder ahead of games this weekend against the Melbourne Boomers on the road on Saturday and Dandenong Rangers at Bendigo Stadium on Sunday.
It will be the Spirit’s first look at the Boomers this season, despite having played Perth three times already and South East Queensland twice.
Pritchard said this weekend’s games took on extra importance with the Boomers and Rangers also looking to rebound from losses.
“Melbourne have come off four losses and Perth have come off a loss to Perth, so the results between the three of us will be critical,” he said.
“Dandenong, they beat us by 30 odd points, so we have a lot of ground to catch up on them.
“We played Melbourne in a pre-season match and we had a tie, so it’s going to be a pretty tight game.”
Tess Madgen is averaging 19.56 points and 5.33 assists for the season, to be second in scoring behind Townsville’s Suzy Batkovic (22.14ppg).
A bright spot for the Spirit against Perth was the continued good form of guard Kerryn Harrington, who helped sparked a revival in the third term with a pair of timely three-pointers to give her three for the match to go alongside her 13 points.
“Since Ollie (Heather Oliver) was injured and she’s coming into the starting line-up she’s had some really bright patches for us,” Pritchard said.
“Not just shooting from the perimeter, but driving the ball hard at the basket which is what we are asking for.
“That’s making a real difference for us and if we can get more of the same from her that would be great.”
Opals guard Belinda Snell led all Spirit players with 16 points and is averaging 12.5 points and 4.6 rebounds in an impressive start to the season.
Tip-off for Sunday’s game at Bendigo Stadium is 2pm.