Spirit secures WNBL minor premiership

FOR the second-straight season the Bendigo Bank Spirit are the Women's National Basketball League minor premiers.

The Spirit's 79-70 win over the Sydney Uni Flames in Sydney on Saturday night secured top spot and home court advantage for the major semi-final in the first week of the play-offs.

"It's great to secure the minor premiership with three games still to go,'' Spirit coach Bernie Harrower said.

"It takes the pressure off and we can try a few things in the final three games.

"Even though I don't like to flirt with our form, these final three games will give us the chance to experiment with a few things."

Saturday night's win was far from easy, with the Flames pushing the Spirit for the entire match.

Bendigo led by four at half-time and the game was still in the balance with three-and-a-half minutes remaining in the final term.

After Sydney Uni cut the Spirit's lead to two points, Kelsey Griffin grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck, scoring two consecutive baskets and grabbing a key offensive board.

When a Gabe Richards basket was followed by a trademark Kristi Harrower three-point bomb, the Spirit's 9-1 run opened a match-winning 10 point lead with 60 seconds to play.

After making a flying trip to the University of Nebraska last week where her singlet was retired, Griffin only returned from the US at 7am on matchday.

Coach Bernie Harrower decided to start Griffin on the bench, but there was no sign of jet lag once the star forward hit the court.

She finished with 20 points and 12 rebounds in an MVP performance.

Chelsea Aubry made the most of her time in the starting five, scoring 19 points, including 4-5 from behind the three-point line.

Elyse Penaluna chipped in with 13 points, while Kristi Harrower added nine points and nine assists.

In her first game back from injury, Richards played 16 minutes off the bench and scored five points.

The Spirit will warm up for the play-offs with two big games next weekend. On Saturday night they face second-placed Dandenong in Melbourne, while on Sunday they host third-placed Melbourne Boomers.

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