REGULAR season game in January or play-off contest in March?
It was hard to tell the difference at the Bendigo Stadium on Friday night, such was the electric atmosphere for the WNBL clash between the Bendigo Spirit and Sydney Uni Flames.
It was an atmosphere created not just by a fast-paced, entertaining contest, but most significantly by a bumper crowd that packed the stadium.
The Spirit aimed to capitalise on the influx of basketball fans to town for the annual Bendigo Skin, Ski and Surf Junior Classic and with plenty of promotion during the week, the result was a record regular season crowd for the club of 1537.
The 1537 easily surpassed the previous regular season record of 1402, and while there’s no doubt the extra people for the junior classic tournament helped add to the figure, it was clear by the number of people wearing blue that the vast majority of support was from locals.
And the noise they made when Kerryn Harrington and Kelly Wilson both nailed three-pointers early in the game, and later when Belinda Snell set up Kelsey Griffin for an alley-oop in the second quarter, revived memories of the back-to-back grand final wins in 2013 and 2014.
Spirit general manager Adam Tarr said upon his appointment in May last year he was “excited about seeing the Spirit re-engaging with this region and making the Spirit the number one ticket in town”.
The Spirit reports its crowd attendances are up 20 per cent this season, which is full credit to all those involved in the club and reward for it’s promotional work, both through Bendigo’s various media platforms and on social media.
But there was no better promotion for the club on Friday night than the chance to showcase itself to a host of visitors to town, some of whom may have been watching their first WNBL game, liked what they saw and will now adopt the Spirit as their team.
But just as significant was with plenty of visiting young female basketballers watching the game – many from regional areas – it may have planted the seed that gives them the inspiration to aspire to follow in the footsteps of Griffin, Gabe Richards, Wilson, Harrington, Snell and co with the Spirit.
It was a massive win for the Spirit on the court in beating the equal ladder-leading Flames 81-66, but the win off the court was equally as significant for the club.