Spirit set for fierce contest

THE Bendigo Bank Spirit is expecting a fierce contest from Townsville Fire in this Saturday's basketball showdown.

Fire is the only team to have beaten the WNBL's reigning champions this season.

Saturday's match at Bendigo Stadium will be the first time Fire has played at the venue since Spirit's grand final victory against Townsville last March.

Spirit coach Bernie Harrower said on Tuesday there was a lot at stake for both clubs in the 15th round clash.

"We play Townsville twice over the next couple of weeks.

"They are the only team to have beaten us this season, and they did so convincingly," Harrower said of the season's opener in Townsville.

Fire is on the rebound from a 15-point loss at home to Dandenong last round.

"It's not too often Townsville is beaten at home," Harrower said.

Although on a lengthy winning streak, Harrower said Spirit had to keep working hard in every minute of the match.

"We go into this match in great form, but know we have to play well against a quality team.

"Townsville has great depth, a good balance of mediums and talls, and is a tough team to beat."

Since round one the Spirit has achieved 16 consecutive victories.

The Spirit's win-loss is 16-1.

Fire has an 11-6 record and is fourth on the ladder.

Harrower said a key to Bendigo's play was team defence and contributions from many players.

Spirit has Kelsey Griffin, Gabe Richards, Elyse Penaluna, Kristi Harrower and Kelly Wilson leading the charge.

Chelsea Aubry, Sara Blicavs, Maddie Garrick, Jane Chalmers and Tessa Lavey add a lot of variety.

"Our depth is envied by every other club," Harrower said.

"At times it's really challenging as coach in juggling minutes for players."

Back in round one it was Townsville which strangled Bendigo's attack.

The Fire won the second quarter, 25-7, on the way to a 79-67 victory.

Townsville showed its scoring punch in the opening round as Stephanie Cumming 17, Micaela Cocks 13, Suzy Batkovic 12, Rachael McCully 10, and Kayla Standish 10, led the way.

Harrower said Bendigo's defensive intensity in home-court wins against Melbourne Boomers and West Coast Waves was outstanding.

He urged Spirit fans to be courtside for Saturday's match.

"This is another important match for us.

"Top spot is not stitched up just yet.

"Our next month is going to be a great test," Harrower said of the run to the play-offs.

This Saturday's match tips off at 3pm and will be televised on ABC TV.

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