Flat Spirit aim for bounce back

Joel Peterson | Bendigo Weekly | 13-Oct-2017

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Bendigo's Jessie Rennie will suit up for her WNBL debut this weekend.
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BENDIGO Spirit coach Simon Pritchard wants his side to make a statement in its first home game tomorrow afternoon.

Disappointed with his side’s opening night performance against Canberra, Pritchard expects a far better showing against Melbourne tonight and against Perth tomorrow afternoon.

With only 15 hours between matches there is little rest for the Spirit, something they’ll need to get used to in the abridged 2017/18 campaign. 

After setting the team a goal of two wins in its opening three games, Bendigo has some work to do to reach that this week.

“That was our goal to start the season and I don’t think we’re without a chance of getting there, but we’ll need an improvement this week,” he said.

Bendigo’s opening match against Canberra started poorly and got no better, the Spirit limping out of the blocks to cough up a 10-point margin at quarter time which was extended to 15 at the main break.

From there, the Spirit were never a show, despite getting within two scores in the third period.

After winning three of four preseason matches, Bendigo was flat in its first match to start the 2017/18 campaign.

“We got the game to four points twice but we had to make up too much ground from that first quarter,” Pritchard said.

“I thought our first quarter effort on defence was really poor. 

“We were better in the second half and we did a good job of attacking and getting to the foul line, but we just left ourselves too much of a gap early.”

Betnijah Laney was a strong contributor for the Spirit in her regular season debut, and she’ll likely be tasked with guarding Melbourne captain Jenna O’Hea on Friday night.

“Betnijah attacked really well and we think she’ll be a good match up for Jenna in terms of size and her ability on the perimeter,” Pritchard said.

The two Victorian teams head to Geelong on Friday night, before the Spirit makes its home debut for the season on Saturday afternoon.

The 3pm timeslot is due to the fact the game will be televised on Fox Sports, the league’s new one-game-a-week broadcast partner.

Not surprisingly, corralling Liz Cambage will be the first big test for the weekend and they’ll have to do it without the unavailable Kelsey Griffin.

“Liz is definitely the key for Melbourne, they’ve clearly got good players around her too but it all starts with Liz,” Pritchard said.

“You need to commit two players to defend her but then if she moves the ball she puts your defence in rotation. 

“We did a pretty good job on her in the preseason so we’ll look to that again.”

Like Bendigo, the Lynx is also coming off a 93-80 loss in round one, with Sami Whitcomb held quiet by a strong Sydney defence.

Import guard Courtney Williams had 26 points but needed 23 shots to get there for a Perth offence that was less than efficient.

The clash with Perth will be driven by the guards of both sides and will test a few sore bodies for Bendigo on the second leg of a double-header.

“We’re keen to show the home crowd something and I think the girls will enjoy being able to play on the TV again, maybe that gives them some motivation,” Pritchard said.

“We’re clearly focussing on Friday night against Melbourne, but we really want to perform well at home as well.”

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