Early present looms for Spirit

IT'S not the end of December, but the Bendigo Bank Spirit can all but secure the WNBL minor premiership by defeating the Dandenong Rangers at Bendigo Stadium on Friday night.

It's an early crow that the Spirit hierarchy would cringe at the thought of, but an eighth-straight victory over Dandenong will give the Spirit a three-game lead plus head-to-head advantage over the second-placed Rangers with 10 games to go in the regular season.

From there it would take a major meltdown from the Spirit in January for the Rangers, Boomers or Townsville to knock them off top spot.

Even though there's a long way to go until the play-offs, the thought of such a big lead going into the Christmas break might just be the spark the Spirit needs to play its best basketball of the season to date.

"We've won 12 games in a row this year and beaten Dandenong the past seven times we've played, but streaks like that are made to be broken,'' Spirit coach Bernie Harrower said.

"If we want to beat Dandenong we have to play our best basketball and, to this stage of the season, we haven't hit our straps yet.

"Even though we have the wood on Dandenong, all seven of those games could have gone either way.

"I'm really looking forward to seeing how our girls go against a quality side like Dandenong.

"It should be a great game of basketball."

Harrower said the Spirit's seven-game winning streak over Dandenong was built around defence.

"We match up well with Dandenong and our half-court defence has proven to be as good as any in the league in the past two years,'' he said.

"Dandenong is very hard to stop when allowed to run the basketball, but we seem to do a good job of slowing them down.

"In saying that, it only takes a drop in intensity for a few minutes and Dandenong can score 10 points on you really quickly."

Friday night's game at Bendigo Stadium starts at 7.30pm.

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