Bendigo Spirit to build WNBL campaign around stingy defence

TEAMWORK: Blake Dietrick has been a solid addition for a Bendigo Spirit team that has won its opening two games of the WNBL season. Picture: StTEVEN BLAKE, AKUNA PHOTOGRAPHY

TEAMWORK: Blake Dietrick has been a solid addition for a Bendigo Spirit team that has won its opening two games of the WNBL season. Picture: StTEVEN BLAKE, AKUNA PHOTOGRAPHY

STRONG defence will continue to be key for Bendigo Bank Spirit as the 2016-17 WNBL season rolls into week three.

The Spirit were downright stingy in defence last Saturday night in disposing of Dandenong Rangers 59-44 at Bendigo Stadium.

The scoreline should come as no surprise, according top coach Simon Pritchard.

"It's certainly been an emphasis of our pre-season; defence is where we saw a weakness last year," he said.

"(Monday) night at training we spent most of the night on defence again, working through scenarios so we are all on the same page.

"For the most part we are improving, but we still have along way to go in terms of being a bit more active.

"We are not so bad on the ball, but our away from the ball defence can get better."

It's an intriguing prospect for their rivals, after the Spirit, for the second time in as many weeks, kept their opponent to smallish total.

"it's early days, I know, but we are determined to make our defence even better," he said.

"We know we need to have a great defence to be able to defend a Townsville, or Perth, or Dandenong.

"(The Rangers) had a bad day, there's no doubt about that, but they had a bad day as we didn't let the have a good day."

There have been plenty of positive to emerge during the first two weeks, none more than the form of import Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe.

The Canadian Olympian’s 18 points and 14 rebounds earned her a WNBL team of the week nomination for the first time, alongside University of Canberra star Marianna Tolo, Sydney Uni Flames point guard Leilani Mitchell, Dandenong Rangers' Steph Cumming and Perth Lynx's Sami Whitcomb.

Pritchard said Raincock-Ekunwe had exceeded expectations with the ease in which she had settled into WNBL life.

He said Kelsey Griffin had adapted well to her new role, particularly on defence.

"We are not relying on Kelsey to score our points - not all day, every day like we have in the past," he said.

Pritchard was pleased with the efforts of all four newcomers, including American point guard Blake Dietrick, Nadeen Payne and Ashleigh Karaitiana.

The Spirit will continue their season on Friday night against Sydney University Flames on Friday, before hitting the road for  Sunday fixture against Melbourne Boomers.

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