What started as the Suzy Batkovic show ended with the Bendigo Bank Spirit’s import Kelsey Griffin stealing the limelight to lead her team to a grinding 68-62 win on Saturday night.
The Adelaide Link Lightning came to Bendigo Stadium desperate to break a two-game losing streak, while the Spirit was aiming to get back on the winner’s list at home after its only loss for the WNBL season to Canberra last time.
It was the Lightning which started the better, with reigning league MVP Batkovic sinking 11 points and grabbing four rebounds to guide Adelaide to a 19-16 quarter time lead.
Batkovic’s 17 points at half-time could have been more, nevertheless the 192cm centre dominated a half without many other highlights as both teams struggled for offensive flow.
After finding foul trouble and warming the bench for much of the first term, Griffin was the Spirit’s best to half-time with 10 points as the home team trailed 32-33.
And the import helped Bendigo burst out of the blocks after the long break as some sublime shooting helped the Spirit to a four-point lead.
Kristi Harrower lifted after being held to five points to half-time, while Richards and Rachel Herrick received a chop-out from their team-mates who helped by crowding Batkovic and restricting her to just two points for the term.
But with all the attention on the Australian Opal, it left other players free and another Olympian, Laura Hodges, stepped up with eight third term points at 80 per cent accuracy, which kept the Lightning in the game, 50-49, at the final change.
In a final term arm-wrestle Adelaide briefly took back the lead, but it was Griffin, Harrower and Kelly Wilson who gave the Spirit control in the dying minutes.
Wilson’s crucial three-pointer off the backboard followed by a long range two extended Bendigo’s lead to six with 2:18 to play and the Spirit held on for win number nine of the season.
“It was a grind, it was a really tough game,” Spirit coach Bernie Harrower said. “Both teams are very strong defensively and it showed tonight, it was hard work, but we came away with it in the end.
“We made some big shots down the stretch which were important. Kelly Wilson got a three off the glass which I’m not sure she meant, but as they say it’s now how, but how many that counts.
“That win gives us head-to-head advantage over them, which could be important.”
Griffin finished her home debut with 22 points, four rebounds, two assists and three steals, while also drawing an astonishing 10 fouls from the opposition to be clearly best on court.
The 188cm forward now has returns of 22, 20 and 22 points in her three matches for the Spirit.
“Without her we wouldn’t have won the last three games, she’s just been sensational for us,” Harrower said.
“She’s been able to take some of the heat off Kristi and Gabe which has been important too.”
Kristi Harrower, who was restricted at training because of a knee problem last week, produced another fine display with 15 points, eight rebounds and two assists.
Wilson’s 13 points, including two of her trademark three-point bombs, plus four assists and three rebounds was Bendigo’s other double figure score.
After starting so strongly, Batkovic was held to 21 points – just four in the second half – plus 12 boards, while Hodges had a quiet last term with only