Spirit out to maintain mental edge

SATURDAY afternoon's WNBL clash between the Bendigo Bank Spirit and Melbourne Boomers is more than just a regular season game.

The Spirit's first goal is to maintain their two-game buffer on second-placed Dandenong and third-placed Melbourne.

Secondly, and arguably just as importantly, a Spirit win on the Melbourne Boomers' court would land another significant psychological blow to their Victorian rivals.

The Boomers haven't beaten the Spirit since former Bendigo star Tess Madgen joined Melbourne at the start of last season.

The Spirit have won the three encounters by 1, 12 and 17 points and Madgen is yet to have a standout game against her former club.

"When you're playing a team that you could be playing against in the play-offs, they're teams you want to have a psychological edge over,'' Spirit coach Bernie Harrower said.

"We take a lot of pride in being able to beat teams that are in the top four.

"We were disappointed that we lost to Townsville in round one. Since then we've grafted some wins, but we haven't played our best basketball yet.

"I think this is a game that the girls have been looking forward to for quite a while."

Harrower said his team raises the bar when it plays its fellow Victorian clubs.

"Games against Dandenong and Melbourne are huge for us,'' he said.

"It's the cross-state rivalry to see who is the top dog in Victoria.

"Even when we weren't challenging for the championship we had great games with the Boomers.

"This one shouldn't be anything different."

While the Spirit has held sway in recent meetings with the Boomers, Harrower expects a tight game on Saturday.

"They're well-drilled, they run their stuff well and they've got some very good players,'' Harrower said of the Boomers.

"Some of their better players are putting up some big numbers in this league.

"We'll be looking to clamp down on those players with our defence and, hopefully, we'll keep them to a losing score."

Saturday's game in Melbourne will be broadcast on ABC-TV from 3pm.

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