Bendigo Spirit's sweet-shooting a highlight against Logan

THERE was plenty of sweet-shooting in Bendigo Bank Spirit's 29-point win against Logan Thunder in Saturday night's basketball clash.

Chasing consecutive WNBL championships, Bendigo will tip off the play-offs next Sunday at home against Dandenong Ranges.

Spirit teamed superbly to beat Thunder, 97-68, at Bendigo Stadium.

Victorious coach Bernie Harrower was rapt with another brilliant team effort.

Spirit's wealth of attacking options and strong defence overwhelmed Thunder.

Named in the All-Star Five earlier in the week, Spirit centre-forward Gabe Richards achieved a game-high 22 points and 13 rebounds.

Chelsea Aubry and Maddie Garrick also played starring roles.

In the key or from three-point range, Bendigo often found ways to shoot down Thunder's defence.

After a lapse early in the third quarter, Spirit went on a 17-1 run as the margin grew to 26 points.

Intensity did not let up as Bendigo won the final term, 26-19.

Harrower said it was crucial to carry momentum and keep building confidence going into the play-offs.

"A really pleasing aspect of tonight's match was we had contributions from every player.

"It was important to have as many players gain court-time, not token time, but valuable time and contribute any way they could."

Throughout his lengthy and successful coaching career, Harrower has stressed the importance of effort and workrate.

"Those two factors do not require a lot of skill. It's about want and will, and we have that among every player in this squad."

The depth on the Spirit list was on show.

Captain and four-time Olympian Kristi Harrower did not take to the court as she recovers from an ankle injury sustained in the previous round against Melbourne Boomers.

In-form centre Elyse Penaluna faces a second knee reconstruction after being hurt in Spirit's latest victory on Dandenong's court.

On Saturday night, Chelsea Abury was in Bendigo's starting five and went on to earn the MVP award for this match.

Aubry scored 17 points, 78 per cent from the field, and sunk three of five attempts in three-point range.

The skilful Maddie Garrick scored 12 points, won two rebounds and showed plenty of energy in attack and defence.

"Chelsea just keeps on getting better every game she plays," said Harrower. 

"The past five or six games, Chelsea and Maddie have played some terrific basketball."

Harrower said the team responded well to Logan's pressure as the match went on.

"We have had some great battles with Logan over the years.

"It took us a while to adjust to some of their defensive set-ups tonight.

"Early in the third we did not play at the level I was after."

After an early time-out the Spirit went on the 17-1 run in which Richards, Kelly Wilson, Sara Blicavs, Aubry, Jane Chalmers, Kelsey Griffin and Chantella Perera all joined in the points spree.

Bendigo won the rebound duels, 40-26, and the assists, 23-8.

A great game by Wilson included 13 points, eight assists, and some big threes.

The Wilson three-pointer inside the final minute drew some of the biggest applause of the night from Spirit's parochial fans.

Leading scorers in Spirt's 22nd victory in the 24-game season were Richards 22, Aubry 17, Wilson 13, Garrick 12, and Chalmers 7.

Thunder's attack was led by Emma Langford 18, Tegan Cunningham 12, Natalie Taylor 10, and captain Kristen Veal 10.

Spirit takes on Dandenong Ranges in Sunday's major semi-final at Bendigo Stadium from 1pm.

The winner advances to the March 9 grand final in the Wattle Valley-backed WNBL.

Townsville and Melbourne will fight to stay in the premiership race when they clash on Saturday from 2pm on Fire's court. 

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