Bendigo Spirit's sizzling run rolls along

BENDIGO Spirit has tipped off a new year with a stunning home-court win against Melbourne Boomers and hard-fought victory in Canberra.

The Spirit's winning double and Dandenong's loss in Adelaide has put Bendigo five wins clear of its nearest rival in the Women's National Basketball League's title race.

Bendigo has an unbeaten streak of 15 following Saturday night's 34-point win against Melbourne.

Spirit dominated just about every minute of the clash with the Boomers at Bendigo Stadium.

The clash was in stark contrast to Friday night where Bendigo fought from a nine-point deficit to beat the Canberra Capitals in the final minute.

"Tonight was our most complete team effort and performance of the season," coach Bernie Harrower said of Spirit's play against the third-placed Boomers.

"Melbourne is a quality team, they run their plays well, are well-coached, and have a lot of quality players.

"The Boomers had not played for three weeks, but are always a danger," he said about the Guy Molloy-coached Melbourne.

"The most pleasing aspect was the energy levels within our team.

"They really rose to the occasion," said Harrower.

Strong defence, quick transition and desperate play were to the fore in the 83-49 victory.

Bendigo built on a 10-point lead at quarter-time by strangling Melbourne's attack in the second.

A physical opening was marked by some heavy falls to the floor.

Spirit's young gun Sara Blicavs crashed heavily from a tangle with Rachel Jarry, and the Boomers' ace was down after a collision with Bendigo's Gabe Richards.

Spirit's Elyse Penaluna scored six points in the first quarter as captain Kristi Harrower, four, and  Blicavs, four, finished off many attacks.

The Spirit scored 60 per cent from the field and missed just one of a dozen shots at the free-throw line in the opening stanza.

The Boomers scored just six points in the second and were kept scoreless for almost eight minutes as Bendigo added 19 for a 42-19 margin at half-time.

Among the many highlights in the second term was the play of Chantella Perrera, who despite slipping in the key, was still able to get a pass to Chelsea Aubry to add two more points.

Melbourne's leading scorer in the first half was Tess Madgen on five.

The Boomers did win the first half of the third quarter, 13-8, but Bendigo regained the momentum.

Three-pointers by Heather Oliver and Kelly Wilson helped put the margin to 23 at a quarter to go.

There were few occasions where Bulleen scored consecutive baskets.

Although there were some concerns about fatigue following Bendigo's clash in Canberra on Friday night there was still plenty of energy in the last.

The Spirit won the final quarter, 18-7.

Harrower was rapt with the contribution of so many players.

Spirit had 10 players feature in the scoring tally.

Gabe Richards led the way with 13 points and 12 rebounds.

The feats by Richards and Kelsey Griffin, 11 points and eight rebounds, earned the Spirit awards.

Leading stats in Saturday night's match between Bendigo Spirit and Melbourne Boomers:

Points - Bendigo: 13 Gabe Richards, 12 Sara Blicavs, 11 Kelsey Griffin, 10 Elyse Penaluna, 9 Chelsea Aubry, 9 Kristi Harrower. Melbourne: 9 Tess Madgen, 9 Amelia Todhunter, 7 Rebecca Allen.

Rebounds - Bendigo (37): 12 Richards, 8 Griffin, 6 Penaluna, 3 Maddie Garrick. Melbourne (24):  7 Chelsea Poppens, 4 Allen.

Spirit is back on its home court for next Saturday night's match against West Coast Waves. Tip-off is at 7.30pm. 

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