PHYSICALITY will be key for the Bendigo Spirit on Saturday night when the club team battles its bogey side so far this season, the Melbourne Boomers, in an attempt to claw back ground on the WNBL top four.
The Guy Molloy-coached Melbourne has taken victory in both of the matchups between the clubs so far this season; the first a 20-point win at the State Basketball Centre and the second in round ten on Bendigo’s
Former Spirit players Elyse Penaluna and Maddie Garrick were the stars in the respective victories, Garrick lighting it up with 22 points, including seven three-pointers.
The Spirit could see themselves back in the league’s finals spots at the end of the round if they record a win on Saturday and Dandenong loses to Sydney Uni.
Spirit coach Simon Pritchard believes the Spirit are prepared better heading into this weekend’s contest and will be able to handle the physical treatment from Melbourne, especially that of star forward Kelsey Griffin.
“They’ve been very physical in holding Kelsey… the referees haven’t called that or paid attention to that,” he said.
“We have to find ways for her to get some space and for the referees to see that it’s a foul. Sometimes it could be a case of if there is a hold, throw the ball in there and they might call it.
“We need to realise that if they are taking Kelsey away then they have to be giving us something else, so we need to be patient and calm and find that option.”
Bendigo’s offence has ground to a halt in the two games against Melbourne with the threat of Griffin reduced by a well-drilled Boomers outfit.
The Spirit scored 58 points in the first game before putting up 65 in the second game, well down on the team’s season average of 73.3 points per game, the Spirit shooting at a lowly 34 per cent in that space.
Melbourne’s other trump card is its three-point shooting, the Boomers leading the league with 38 per cent on shots from behind the arc while shooting the league’s third most threes.
With Garrick’s deadly step-back jumper, Alice Kunek’s transition game, point guard Brittany Smart, Penaluna and the likely return of former Spirit player and Australian Opal Tess Madgen, the Boomers don’t lack for long-range shooting ability.
“We go into a month of hard defensive work, it’s like a periodisation where for the next four weeks I say ‘right, we’re focussing on all the little things we do on defence’ to make those actions smoother, better and more concrete with the girls,” Pritchard said.
“When we scrimmage the emphasis will be on defence. And then offensively the emphasis will be on end of quarter scenarios such as when the shot clock is at this or the game clock is at 1:30, what do we want to get here?
“We need to be mindful of their perimeter threats but overall I’m pretty buoyant about the game. I think we have made the mistakes that have allowed Melbourne to get what they wanted in the previous two as opposed to us doing it.”
Saturday night’s game tips off at 7pm at Bendigo Stadium.