AUSTRALIA'S reigning national women's basketball champion, Bendigo Spirit beat China's national team in Friday night's match at Bendigo Stadium.
Spirit fought back from a 10-point deficit at half-time to lead by five points at a quarter to go.
Fortunes swung dramatically in the third quarter after Spirit raised its defensive intensity by a significant margin.
While China battled in attack, Spirit took control through sweet-shooting by the likes of Kelly Wilson, Kelsey Griffin and Gabe Richards.
After dominating most of the second quarter, China led 41-31 at half-time.
Spirit went on an 11-nil run early in the third to draw within a point.
Bendigo's charge was led by Griffin, five points; Wilson, four; and Richards, two.
Just as importantly, Bendigo's spirited defence forced fumbles and China's stars took more shots from longer range.
By the end of the third quarter, Bendigo led 64-59.
The Bernie Harrower-coached Spirit won the final quarter, 19-12, and the match, 83-71.
Leading scorers for Bendigo were Richards 20, Griffin 18, Wilson 18, and Chelsea Aubry 11.
China's attack was led by Song Gao 14, Jia Cen Liu 12, Xiao Jia Chen 12, and Shuang Zhao 11.
China won the rebounding duels, 37-28, in which Song Gao, 9, and Jia Cen Liu, 5, led the way.
Leading rebounders for Bendigo were Griffin 11, and Richards 7.
"Tonight was a great hit-out for us," said victorious coach Bernie Harrower.
"We spoke a lot about efforts at the half-time break and really lifted in the second half.
"China outplayed us for a lot of the first half, so we really had to lift our efforts in defence and attack."
Two Australian basketball legends - Tom Maher and Michelle Timms - are coach and assistant coach respectively of China's team.
There's an international flavour to the Spirit line-up in which Griffin from the United States, and Aubry from Canada played key roles.
The play of Wilson from the three-point arc was outstanding in the second half, and the strength of Richards outpointed China in a lot of contests under the basket.
A four-time Olympic representative, Kristi Harrower racked up nine assists for the Spirit.
Rapt to have won against a formidable opponent, Bernie Harrower said Spirit had a lot to work at.
"Our efforts in the second half were fantastic, but not so great for a lot of the first half.
"The pressure and run we brought to the court in the third quarter is what we need to do in every quarter we play," Harrower said of Bendigo's quest to win back-to-back WNBL championships.
Spirit heads north to play Townsville in the season tip-off next Friday night. It's the rematch of last season's WNBL grand finalists. Tip-off is at 7.30pm.
Spirit's points against China: 20 Richards, 18 Griffin, 18 Kelly Wilson, 11 Aubry, 6 Harrower, 4 Maddie Garrick, 2 Sarah Blicavs, Jane Chalmers, Tessa Lavey.
We really had to lift our efforts in defence and attack