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THE Bendigo Bank Spirit are officially the best women’s basketball team in Australia.
The Spirit put an exclamation mark on a superb season by defeating Townsville Fire 71-57 in yesterday’s Women’s National Basketball League grand final at Bendigo Stadium.
The Spirit had been the best team all season and they capped it off with another outstanding team performance yesterday.
“I can’t talk more highly of this group,’’ Spirit coach Bernie Harrower said.
“They’re the best group I’ve ever coached and they fully deserved to win today.”
The Spirit underlined their status as the league’s premier defensive outfit by holding Townsville to a 35 per cent shooting success rate.
Townsville, who were coming off successive finals away wins at Adelaide and Dandenong, also scrapped hard defensively, but couldn’t reproduce the execution and energy of those upset victories.
The Spirit trailed 4-2 early but then produced 13 straight points to take control of the game and never again relinquished the lead.
Townsville got the deficit down to one in the third quarter, but Bendigo reasserted themselves to lead 52-41 at the final change.
Bendigo took almost five minutes of the final term to score, but Townsville were equally cold in offence during that time, scoring just two points and never getting the gap below nine.
“We just grind out games and defensively take teams out of their stuff,’’ Spirit coach Bernie Harrower said.
“We don’t let teams get on runs and I thought we were very good at that today.
“They were good at it, too. We had our scoring droughts. There were times where I didn’t know where our next basket was coming from.
“Then we’d have some individual efforts where someone would get an offensive rebound and a stick back or someone would make a great play and it would kick the score along and away we’d go again.”
Forward Kelsey Griffin and centre Gabe Richards led the charge with 20 points each.
Star point guard Kristi Harrower and forward Chelsea Aubry added 11 points each.
For Townsville, import centre Jessica Adair tallied 11 points and ten rebounds.
Jess Foley, who was playing her final game for Townsville before starting medical studies, also scored 11, but Townsville had no other double-digit scorers.