Sting to linger for long time

March 1, 2024 BY

Heart and hustle: Alex Wilson heads up court during the Bendigo Spirit final season game against Perth at Red Energy Arena last Saturday. Photos: STEVE WOMERSLEY

THE sting from missing the WNBL finals will linger for Bendigo Spirit’s players, coaches and basketball fans for a long time.

The club’s run to a long-awaited finals berth was ended in spectacular fashion by Perth Lynx on Saturday night at Bendigo’s Red Energy Arena.

A 74-93 loss meant Spirit crashed from the third rung to the sixth after a massive turn in fortunes.

Bendigo led 18-2 less than four minutes into the clash with Lynx.

It was a big night for Spirit as the club celebrated legendary guard Kelly Wilson hitting the 450-game milestone the previous round.

Spirit was on a five-game winning streak.

After being under intense heat, Perth hit back to be within five points at half-time.

Lynx then dominated the third quarter.

Shots by Perth kept dropping as Spirit’s either rimmed out or bounced off the board.

Lynx won the quarter 24-13, and the last, 25-12.

At the final buzzer Lynx celebrated a 93-74 victory.

The weekend’s results across the country lifted Perth to the fourth rung and finals.

“I think it was a case of a number of very small things impacting the final outcome of the game in that second half,” Spirit coach Kennedy Kereama said post-match.

“Perth made some very tough shots, which is partly skills, partly luck, partly how they play and we have to give them credit for making those shots.”

Although bitterly disappointed with how the season finished, Kereama said there were many positives.

“From a pure results perspective it looks as though we’re no further advanced than we were last season,” Kereama said of the 11-10 record.

“But from a cultural perspective we’re leaps and bounds ahead of where we were.”

At match end Spirit presented a singlet to Kelly Wilson which had been signed by all team-mates across a WNBL journey of 21 seasons that includes four championship wins.

“It’s not just what you’ve done, but how you’ve done it,” long-time team-mate Kelsey Griffin said of Wilson’s durability, work rate and skill.

“You are not one who likes to be singled out, but you deserve every moment.”

Kelly Wilson (right) was presented with a memento for her 450 WNBL games after the final buzzer.