Bulleen Boomers coach Tom Maher believes the Bendigo Bank Spirit’s defence – the best in the WNBL – is only “decent” and says his team holds no fear coming to Bendigo Stadium tomorrow night.
Defence has been the foundation stone on which the Spirit has built its league-leading 13-2 record and Bendigo has conceded the fewest points this season – holding teams to an average of only 65.6 per game.
But Maher, whose side is fifth and in a scrap for finals with a 7-9 record, isn’t joining the chorus singing the Spirit’s praises.
“I think Bendigo’s a decent defensive team,” Maher said.
“But you’re not going to say they’re the greatest defensive team of all time.
“I think Bendigo’s a good all-round team, I don’t think they have weaknesses – they’re a decent defensive team, they’re a decent offensive team.
“We’ve played with them, we just haven’t been able to get over the top of them. It’s not out of our league or anything like that.”
In round two, the Bernie Harrower-coached Spirit outscored the Boomers in the last three quarters to win 70-69, before holding Bulleen to just 15 second-half points in its 73-61 round nine victory.
Both times the Boomers were near full-strength; however, Maher said his talented team hadn’t peaked this season because of injuries.
“Nowhere near it, we’ve had so many injuries. We just haven’t been able to get anything like up to our best,” he said.
“We’ve had half our squad injured; we don’t have players playing against Bendigo (tomorrow night).
“A lot of players have had modified training, so it’s been quite difficult in that respect.
“I like to have a fast break approach. It’s difficult to run when a lot of your players are hurt, so that’s been limited this year.”
Australian Opals centre Elyse Penaluna is in a race against time to play tomorrow night, while Bulleen will be without fellow Opal Emma McDonald.
Desperate for a win, the Boomers must do what only Canberra has managed by downing the Spirit on its home court.
“It’s a nice place to play, there’s no problems with that,” Maher said. “You’re not going to say we’re going to tick that one off, but we’ve got to upset somebody.”
Stopping Spirit skipper Kristi Harrower – the WNBL’s top scorer (270 points) and assist-leader (89) – is first and foremost in Maher’s mind.
“Their ability to run plays is their strength, their ability to have a point guard that can get them out of trouble at any time – that’s their strength,” Maher said.
“Kristi’s huge, but Gabe’s (Richards) having a fantastic year and their import’s (Kelsey Griffin) having a great year.
“They’ve got a lot of good players and they’re well organised.
“There’s nothing cheap about the way to play them, you’ve got to seriously be attending to all parts of it, there’s no one thing that’s going to get you out of trouble.”
The match tips off at 7.30pm tomorrow at the Marong Road Stadium in West Bendigo.