LET the business end of the season begin.
The Bendigo Bank Spirit rounded out their Women’s National Basketball League regular season with a hard-fought 66-57 win over the Townsville Fire on Saturday night.
While it wasn’t the Spirit’s best performance of the season, it was good enough for coach Bernie Harrower to know his side is ready for the play-offs.
“We’ve been treading water a bit for the past couple of weeks because we knew we couldn’t lose top spot,’’ Harrower said.
“The most pleasing thing about this win is that we got contributions from a lot of different players, we showed we can play without having to use Kristi all the time and we wore down a good side in Townsville.
“It was a good lead-up to next week’s play-off game.”
The winner of next Sunday afternoon’s second semi-final game with Dandenong at Bendigo Stadium will march straight into the WNBL grand final.
“Heading into this game (against Townsville) we really needed to make sure we weren’t thinking about the Dandenong game,’’ Harrower said.
“We started slowly, but we worked back into the game. To give up 20 points in the first quarter, but then keep Townsville to 57 points for the whole match was very pleasing.”
The Spirit trailed by nine at the first break before dominating the second and third terms to establish a seven-point lead going into the final quarter.
The Fire closed within six points with three-and-a-half minutes to play, but they never seriously challenged the Spirit.
.Import Kelsey Grffin led the way for the Spirit with 19 points and 11 rebounds, and Gabe Richards added 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Kristi Harrower, who continues to be hampered by an Achilles problem, played just 24 minutes as the Spirit try and nurse her through to the end of the season.
She was still the architect of the victory, scoring 10 points to go with four assists and four rebounds.
Chantella Perera played a key role off the bench for the Spirit, her six points and six rebounds coming in just 13 minutes of game time.
“We shared the load and got some key minutes into a lot of players,’’ Bernie Harrower said.
“We’re in pretty good shape going into the play-offs.”
Meanwhile, the Bendigo Basketball Association and the Bendigo Spirit made a joint presentation to Kristi Harrower before tip-off on Saturday night.
Kristi was recognised for her contribution to Bendigo basketball over her distinguished career.
A banner with her trademark number 10 was unfurled and she was presented with a framed Opals singlet.
While Kristi is yet to announce her retirement, this WNBL season is expected to be her last.