Grand final all about defence for Bendigo Spirit

IF you have a ticket to Sunday’s WNBL grand final and you’re expecting a free-flowing, high-scoring contest – sorry, but that’s not going to happen.

Sunday’s championship game between the Bendigo Spirit and Townsville Fire will be based on defence.

It’s a clash of the league’s two best defensive teams.

“If we don’t play to the defensive intensity that we’ve set, then it’s going to be hard for us to win,’’ Spirit coach Bernie Harrower said on Friday.

“Our game is built around defence and, especially against a quality side like Townsville, we have to be on our game.”

Townsville is the only side to have beaten Bendigo this season.

The Fire knocked off the Spirit twice in their three regular season encounters.

They defeated the Spirit 79-67 in Townsville in round one and 81-70 in Bendigo in round 15.

In the Fire’s two wins they managed to break down the Spirit’s magical 75-point barrier.

When the Spirit restricts teams to less than 75 points they rarely lose.

“Townsville have a number of high-quality players that can shoot the ball well at a high percentage,’’ Harrower said.

“We can’t afford to let them get going. Once a team gets momentum it’s very hard to stop.

“That defensive intensity early in the game is so important.”

One of the Spirit’s strengths is the frontcourt combination of Gabe Richards, Kelsey Griffin, Chelsea Aubry and Sara Blicavs.

Their ability to dominate the rebounding has played a major role in the Spirit’s success.

“I think we lead the league in rebounding at both ends of the court,’’ Harrower said.

“We pride ourselves on getting after the boards.”

Harrower is expecting the game will be a physical contest and how the referees  call the game could have a bearing on the outcome.

“We have the same referees that we had in the semi-final against Dandenong and that day they called it tightly early before only calling what they needed to call as the game wore on,’’ Harrower said.

“They did a pretty good job that day and if it unfolds the same way on Sunday they won’t have a bearing on the game.

“It will come down to whichever team plays best on the day.”

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