The Bendigo Bank Spirit’s juggernaut rolled on to bring the West Coast Waves crashing down at Bendigo Stadium on Saturday night.
The Spirit responded to coach Bernie Harrower’s warning against complacency with a thumping 74-51 victory which extended its perfect start to the season to 5-0.
After four come-from-behind wins on the road, including in round one against West Coast in Perth, victory number five was never in doubt as Bendigo led from start to finish.
“A couple of times we had little lapses, but to hold a team like that to 51 it speaks volumes for our defence,” Harrower said.
“We didn’t get into a huge flow, but we weren’t put under pressure on the scoreboard because our defence was so good.”
The win kept Bendigo on top of the WNBL ladder as the only undefeated team following Townsville’s loss to Adelaide yesterday.
The Spirit owes plenty to its in-form stars Kristi Harrower and Gabe Richards, who once again led the way on Saturday night.
Harrower set the standard early for Bendigo, scoring eight first term points opposed to former team-mate Deanna Smith as the Spirit led 18-8 at quarter time.
West Coast wasn’t without its chances, but didn’t help its cause by shooting at just 17 per cent from the field.
Richards dominated the second term to have 12 points and eight rebounds at half-time, with Bendigo putting the result beyond doubt at the long break with its 41-19 lead.
While Harrower went scoreless in the second term, the rest of the Spirit got in on the act.
Chantella Perera consistently attacked the hoop to have six points at half-time, while Hayley Munro and Kelly Wilson (five points), Chelsea Aubry (three) and Madeleine Garrick (two) also impacted the scoreboard, which pleased the coach.
“Sometimes we get a little bit too conscious of going to (Kristi and Gabe) and sometimes the other players are thinking pass when they catch it and not thinking score,” he said. “From that point of view it was more encouraging.
“We’re certainly not going deep anywhere (this season) if we’re relying on Kristi and Gabe to do all the work for us, we need everyone to be firing.”
Bendigo led by 30 points following an Aubry three-pointer in the third quarter, but to West Coast’s credit it never stopped trying and Bendigo took the foot off the pedal in the final term.
Richards finished with 23 points and 13 rebounds, while Harrower racked up 17 points, eight boards and six assists, and Perera scored nine points.
Smith led the Waves on 15 points, 10 rebounds and two assists.
Another former Bendigo player, Lisa Wallbutton, scored 10 points for West Coast.
The Spirit’s comfortable win allowed some of the extended bench players some court time, while the stars rested ahead of Saturday night’s tougher test when Bendigo hosts reigning premiers Dandenong.
The Spirit hopes to welcome new import Kelsey Griffin against the Rangers, while star recruit Renae Camino should return from a calf injury after the bye the following weekend.
“Those two are really going to strengthen our team and enhance it and that’s what we’re after,” Harrower said.
“We know if this is going to be Kristi’s last year we certainly want to make a run at it for her.
“You need a lot of luck, you need a lot of things to go your way if you’re going to make a run, but as I said last week everything’s going well at the moment.
“We know it’s a long, hard road – we’re only five games in to a 24-game season – there’s still 19 games we’ve got to contend with yet.”