While the Bendigo Bank Spirit’s right to host WNBL finals at Bendigo Stadium this season remains uncertain, the club has the chance to guarantee at least a preliminary final spot in its clash with the Sydney Uni Flames tonight.
With five games left before finals the Spirit has head-to-head advantage and a four win advantage over third-placed Adelaide.
Victory tonight for Bendigo would mean the club can’t fall out of the top-two, guaranteeing it a preliminary final berth if it was to lose the second semi-final.
But Spirit coach Bernie Harrower doesn’t want his charges to look any further than tonight’s 7.30pm showdown at Bendigo Stadium.
Sydney is second-bottom on the ladder and has lost four of its last five, but pushed the Spirit in a 77-69 loss two weeks ago at the same venue.
“We know Sydney are tough team and their position on the ladder doesn’t tell the true story about where they’re at,” Harrower said.
“They’ve had a lot of injuries in the early part of the season and they’ve been quite good since they got all their team together – I think Ellie Manou is the only one that isn’t playing at the moment.
“They’re a much-improved team and even our last game against them here in Bendigo a couple of weeks ago we had to play it out all the way to the finish to get the job done.”
Twin towers April Sykes and Rohanee Cox caused the Spirit defensive headaches last time, while Sarah Graham lit up late in the match to bring Sydney within six points.
“Along with (Katie-Rae) Ezery and (Alicia) Poto they’ve got a team that’s capable of beating anybody in the competition,” Harrower said.
“We only need to have a bad shooting game and we’re in a bit of trouble, we need our group to come in ready to play.
“I’ve spoken to the girls all week about maintaining high standards, not getting ahead of ourselves and not underestimating anybody.
“We need to make sure we respect every team that comes to town or we go to play or we can certainly get beaten by anybody we’ve got to play in the last five games.”
The Spirit, which has lost just twice this season and only once at home, is set to welcome back Chantella Perera from a back injury tonight.
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