Spirit responds to pressure
THE last few lines of the hit song Under Pressure by Queen and David Bowie ring true as Bendigo Spirit has three crucial games to round out the Cygnett Women’s National Basketball League’s regular season.
On a three-game winning streak, Spirit’s team will be striving to ensure round 14 is not its last dance in the 2023/24 campaign.
After a break as the Opals play Olympic qualifying matches in Brazil, Spirit’s next run tips off with Thursday night’s away game against the UC Capitals in Canberra.
The Kennedy Kereama-coached Spirit then heads far north for Sunday’s match against reigning champions Townsville Fire.
Win both and Spirit is a strong chance to climb into the top four, provided it beats Perth Lynx in the home game on 24 February at Red Energy Arena.
A must-win scenario is what Spirit faced against Melbourne Boomers at Red Energy Arena on 30 January.
In a game marked by many momentum swings, Bendigo overcame a late Boomers surge to clinch an 80-70 victory and a two-one result in this season’s series between the teams.
“I’m really proud of the group tonight in what was a game that required a lot of poise and discipline,” Kereama said post-match.
“It was a must-win game and that creates a whole different type of pressure.
“I thought the first three quarters to keep that calibre of team to 56 points was credit to our team.”
A highlight for Spirit was the play of four-time WNBL champion Kelsey Griffin as she racked up 20 points, eight rebounds, three assists, and five steals.
Griffin said Spirit’s defensive intensity was a key in the team’s winning streak.
“In our highlight culture we get obsessed with the offensive end of the floor, but from my experience it’s the teams that lock themselves in on the defensive end of the court that put themselves in with the best of chance of being successful,” she said.
Among those doing plenty of work is Abbey Wehrung.
“She is the best defensive guard in the league,” Griffin said.
Add in Kelly Wilson’s near 450-games experience and Spirit has a great guard rotation that includes Mehryn Kraker.
“It’s really exciting to see all the hard work start to pay off because that doesn’t always happen in sport,” Griffin said.
A 9-9 record has Spirit in fifth place and putting the heat on Sydney Flames and Boomers who are both on 11-8.