A WNBL road double in Perth and Adelaide will provide a major test to Bendigo Spirit coach Simon Pritchard and his players. But it’s a challenge Pritchard says the Spirit is ready for as they look to push their way back towards the top of the league ladder.
The Spirit recovered after a disappointing outing against the Dandenong Rangers in Melbourne last Friday night, defeating the Canberra Capitals at Bendigo Stadium on Saturday night. The 1-1 split left the Spirit with a 3-2 record after three rounds.
They return to the court on Friday night against the Perth Lynx in Western Australia. The Spirit have already had one look at the Lynx this season, comprehensively defeating them in Bendigo a fortnight ago.
That loss is the Lynx’s sole blemish in four games played this season, their most recent win an eye-opening nine point win against Dandenong, highlighted 36 points and six rebounds from guard Sami Whitcomb. Pritchard acknowledged the Lynx would be a “far tougher proposition in their own backyard”.
In a candid assessment of how the Spirit was travelling so far, the first year coach said his players’ defensive work still needed a bit a polishing up. He said the match-up against the in-form Whitcomb and former Spirit guard Tessa Lavey, who is captaining Perth, would give his team a good opportunity to work on that part of their game.
“We need to be able to support each other and when teams move the ball after they beat us, we need to get the next person quickly,” he said. “That is going to take just a little bit more time to develop.
“But a lot of what we are doing offensively is working, particularly isolating Gabe Richards. “And we are starting to get Belinda (Snell) and Kerryn (Harrington) and Kelly (Wilson) coming off ball screens and creating some problems for teams.
“We are starting to get that synergy between our guards and bigs.” Pritchard believed the Spirit were a good match-up for the Lynx, as evidenced by their previous encounter.
“Sam Whitcomb scored 36 points on the weekend and she’s really in good form, so it’s a case of can we keep her under control,” he said. “We need to limit the number of touches and shots she puts up and let’s see if the rest of the team can score the points for them.”
Averaging nearly 20 points and 10 rebounds per game, import Kelsey Griffin earned WNBL Team of the Week honours for the third straight week. Richards is in similar excellent touch, with averages of 16.4 points and 10 rebounds.
The Spirit will be without guard Heather Oliver, who is another week away from returning from a rib injury. The Spirit will play the Adelaide Lightning on Sunday.
Despite being winless, the Lightning still boast plenty of talent including Opals guard Leilani Mitchell (14.25 points per game) and forward Mikaela Ruef (15.25ppg, 10.5 rebounds)
Article: Kieran Iles, Bendigo Advertiser