THE Bendigo Bank Spirit sounded a clear warning to its WNBL rivals that it's nearing its best after two road wins at the weekend.
The defending champions capped-off round three with a comprehensive 89-66 triumph at Canberra on Sunday.
Gabe Richards took control of the match with 12 first-term points and finished with a double-double of 19 and 15 boards.
Five Spirit players hit double figures, including Sara Blicavs with 16 off the bench, while captain Kristi Harrower dished-off seven assists with as many rebounds.
Abby Bishop led all scorers with 20 points for Canberra but too much was left to her, Natalie Hurst, 10 points, and Carley Mijovic, 16.
Bendigo's third-straight win, after Friday night's 77-61 triumph in Sydney and a home victory over Adelaide, has lifted the Spirit to third spot with a 3-1 record.
Coach Bernie Harrower hailed the Spirit's return to choking team defence and for its aerial domination, with 98 rebounds to 46 for the weekend.
"The two wins this weekend were more like last year's form, we captured a bit of that," Harrower said.
"Defensively we got the job done and offensively we were able to find the basket.
"I was really pleased and there's some really good signs within our group."
Although the Spirit is firmly back on track after a stunted pre-season, Harrower believes there's better yet to come.
The Spirit romped to a 29-16 lead at quarter-time, but the Capitals rose with a 28-21 second term.
Bendigo tightened its defensive grip in the second half and held the Caps to just 25 points, while adding 39 of their own to race to the 23-point victory.
"We're still a work in progress," Harrower said.
"The challenged us in the second quarter with 28 points in the second quarter, which wasn't Spirit-like, that's for sure.
"It's not where I want to be, but in saying that, in the second half we held them to 25 points so that was pretty good."
Harrower saved special praise for recruit Sara Blicavs who, along with Richards, fellow addition Elyse Penaluna, import Kelsey Griffin and forward Chelsea Aubry, forms a potent frontcourt.
"Sara's really starting to come into her own, she was really good on Friday night at both ends of the floor and she was really good today," the veteran coach said.
"She had some key baskets and played a key defensive role today. All of a sudden its clicked into her way of thinking that in this team everybody plays defence.
"She was really good at the defensive end in both games and she had some major players that she was playing on in both games."
The Spirit's spread of scorers and contributors across the squad especially pleased Harrower, who was able to keep the minutes down for his stars in both games.
"That's where we tried to be last year, we had five people in double figures today, but we had contributions," Harrower said.
"We're certainly starting to get better as far as that's concerned, we had 30 points off the bench today and that's fantastic for us.
"I was worried about this weekend, but to come away with two decisive wins was pleasing."
Bendigo hosts West Coast on Friday night.
Bendigo versus Canberra
13-29 41-50 56-73 66-89
Points - Bendigo: Richards 19, Blicavs 16, Wilson 13, Penaluna, Griffin 11.
Canberra: Bishop 20, Mijovic 16, Hurst 10, Bunton 6.