No tougher opponent could stand in the way of the Bendigo Bank Spirit and this weekend’s bid to rebound from a disappointing home loss.
The Spirit head north for an engagement with Sydney Uni Flames, a team they have fallen to twice already this WNBL season.
Saturday night’s game will be the third of four meetings between the two clubs in the 2016-17 season, with the Spirit having their work cut out if they are to clinch the all-important head-to-head series against the Flames.
They will start the weekend two wins and minus 12 points down after the Flames won 74-69 in Bendigo and 93-86 in Sydney.
Spirit coach said the clash loomed as important on several fronts, including a chance to make amends for a disappointing loss to Dandenong Rangers in Bendigo last Sunday.
“It’s going to be a challenge, (but) I think the fact we have lost to them twice already means the girls are going to be very focused,” he said.
“Point spread is going to be important, but we need to win first and foremost and win two games and beat them by more than 12.
“They are absolutely beatable – we led them by 15 points in Bendigo and we were cruising along well and it was an overtime loss in Sydney in controversial circumstances.”
A key for the Spirit, according to Pritchard, will be containing star Australian Opals guard Leilani Mitchell.
Kerryn Harrington had the better of their clash in Bendigo in week three, restricting the class point guard to 13 points, while adding 15 points of her own.
In a boost for the Spirit, they will not have to contend with former Opals star Belinda Snell, who has been ruled out after injuring her medial ligaments in Sunday’s win against Melbourne Boomers.
Snell, who returned to the Flames this season after two years with the Spirit, scored a round high 27 points the previous night in a loss to Dandenong.
But Pritchard hinted there were plenty of other Flames players capable of inflicting maximum damage, including tall timber Asia Taylor (17.6ppg and 8.6rpg) and Jennifer Hamson (12.7ppg and 8.13rpg).
Reflecting on Sunday’s loss, Pritchard hoped there would be no repeat of the critical lapse that cost the Spirit dearly, as the Rangers put together an impressive 23-11 third quarter.
“Five minutes into (the third quarter) we were leading 11-7, so it was the second half of that quarter and into the fourth where we didn’t score for seven minutes,” he said.
“That was the ball-game there and it was all to do with us.
“It was our lack of approach and our lack of focus and we panicked, which is something we haven’t done since the start of the season.”
Saturday’s game will be Spirit forward Nadeen Payne’s 150th in the WNBL.