Spirit put to the test

ONE star player's season is over, another two stars have injury concerns and his team was pushed to double overtime on Sunday.

Penaluna's season over, Wilson injury concern

That should be enough to give Bendigo Spirit coach Bernie Harrower plenty of sleepless nights leading into the WNBL play-offs.

That's not the case.

"I'm very happy with the way we've coped with the adversity this weekend and come away with two wins,'' Harrower said after Sunday's 88-80 double overtime win over Melbourne Boomers.

"Tough games like today's is exactly what we need going into the play-offs. I'd much rather have the girls put to the test like this.

"Because of injuries we gave some of our younger players some extended minutes off the bench and they all had an impact.

"I'm very happy with how we've come out of it. As strange as it sounds, what we've been put through is good preparation for the play-offs."

 While Harrower remains confident about his side's play-off prospects, the injury news was not great.

Centre Elyse Penaluna is likely to undergo a second knee reconstruction this week after injuring her right knee in Saturday night's 85-67 win over the Dandenong Rangers.

Penaluna will have scans on Monday, but the Spirit fear the worst.

"We'll know more on Monday, but the first reaction is it's not looking good,'' Spirit coach Bernie Harrower said.

"Our physio is fairly sure Elyse will need a reconstruction.

"We're hoping for the best."

Opals guard Kelly Wilson suffered a knock to the head in Saturday night's game and missed the win over Melbourne.

"Kelly copped a heavy knock and she had a CT scan today,'' Bernie Harrower said.

"We're not sure how serious the problem is. Obviously, with injuries like that you don't take any risks."

Kristi Harrower was helped off the court in the final quarter on Sunday when she rolled her left ankle.

She returned to action for the dying seconds of regulation and both overtime periods, but was hampered by the injury.

Penaluna and Wilson's absence made the Spirit's double overtime win over the Boomers all the more remarkable.

The Boomers were the better team for the majority of regulation but couldn't land the knockout blow.

Boomers' star Tess Madgen was inches away from being the hero for her side.

Her 10 foot jump shot on the buzzer in regulation looked good, but rimmed out.

In the first period of overtime Madgen was the villain. She missed three free throws in the final 20 seconds, including two with five seconds left that would have given the Boomers the lead.

As a team, the Boomers were 2-11 from the free throw line in the two overtime periods.

While Madgen missed her opportunities, Spirit frontcourt combination Kelsey Griffin and Gabe Richards won the game for the Spirit.

At half-time on Sunday, Griffin had six points and four rebounds and Richards had four points and three rebounds.

At the final buzzer, Griffin had 24 points and 17 boards, while Richards had added 20 points and 21 boards. They combined to score all 12 of the Spirit's points in the second overtime period.

At one point the Boomers led the rebound count 22-13.  By game's end the Spirit held sway 55-31.

Despite her ankle injury, Kristi Harrower dished out 19 assists for the Spirit.

Sara Blicavs, 19 points, and Maddie Garrick, 14 points, kept the Spirit in the game in the first half.

Bec Allen, 20 points, and Madgen, 17 points, seven boards and five assists, were clearly the Boomers' best.

Sunday's result means the Spirit and Dandenong Rangers will meet in the second semi-final in Bendigo on February 23.

The winner will host the grand final a fortnight later.

The Boomers will play Townsville in an elimination final. Who hosts the game will be determined by their clash in Townsville in next weekend's final round of matches.

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