Spirit withstand dramatic finish for second win

Joel Peterson | Bendigo Weekly | 04-Nov-2017

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Rachel Banham led Bendigo with 17 points.
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The Bendigo Spirit have withstood scoring just three points in the third quarter to win their second game of the WNBL season tonight in dramatic fashion.

Bendigo defeated Melbourne 71-66 in a game that saw three players foul out and the two teams trade buckets down the stretch.

The Spirit endured a horrendous start to the second half, in which the team's first third quarter bucket came courtesy of a Rachel Banham putback with just seconds left until three-quarter time

The Spirit led by 14 points at the main break but were up by just three at the final change.

However, in a sign of things to come, Kelsey Griffin opened the final quarter with a corner three, her first field goal of the match.

Griffin went on to score 11 of her 13 points in the final period in yet another superb captain's performance.

Bendigo looked comfortable for much of the last term but Melbourne lifted late, Maddie Garrick levelling things up with 1:56 left on the clock after an acrobatic and-one.

After guard Brittany Smart fouled out, Kelsey Griffin made one-of-two at the foul line to hand Bendigo back the lead.

A Monique Conti attempt at the other end rimmed out and a Griffin layup pushed the lead back out to three.

Rachel Banham contributed four makes from the stripe as the game wound down, including two after Keilani Purcell become the third Melbourne player to foul out, to ice the game for Bendigo.

The import point guard had 17 points for the Spirit, while Gabe Richards had 13 points.

Purcell, star centre Liz Cambage (14 points) and guard Brittany Smart all fouled out for Melbourne. 

In the early going Bendigo's offence led the way, the Spirit shooting better than 50 per cent in the first half before going one-of-13 in the third period.

"The girls did a really good job in the first half and came out with exactly what we had asked them to," Pritchard said.

"Then we had the same-old, same-old problem to start the third quarter.

"But we won't focus on that because at the same time while we weren't scoring they only scored 14 points.

"What we'd earned in the first half we leant on and we used, and that's what a lead is there for."

Betnijah Laney made a welcome return from injury for Bendigo, but a hip complaint for Kelsey Griffin is Bendigo's most pressing concern.

"It was fantastic to have Betnijah back, she wasn't at 100 per cent," Pritchard said.

"I think our bigger issue is Kelsey is really labouring with an injury and we'll have that assessed but it doesn't look very good."

Bendigo now switches its focus to its clash with Sydney on Thursday night at Bendigo Stadium from 7.30pm.

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