Bendigo Spirit wary of AIS form

Two weeks ago the Bendigo Bank Spirit would have viewed tomorrow’s match against the Australian Institute of Sport as a walk-up win.But the AIS’ first WNBL victory last round and a poor performance from the Spirit against Dandenong will have Bendigo coach Bernie Harrower breathing a sigh of relief if his team can take the points in Canberra.The Spirit has won just once from five attempts on the road this season.Bendigo’s record is now four wins and five losses.With three matches in six days coming up, the Spirit needs to find some consistent form or the team will be at risk of missing the play-offs. “We’re in a situation now where every game is critical,” Harrower said.“It’s all there for us to do, if we’re good enough we can turn things around.” The AIS have been the competition easybeats this season and been defeated by 20 points or more in eight of its nine losses – including a 50 point thrashing in round three by Adelaide.But the AIS toppled a misfiring Townsville side by one point last week and will give themselves a chance to beat the Spirit.Sara Bilcavs scored 27 points against Townsville and looms as a major danger to Bendigo’s hopes.The AIS also had Olivia Thompson rack up 21 points and nine rebounds in the win against Fire.Another player to watch in the AIS line-up will be Tessa Lavey from Bendigo.Harrower said the Spirit could not afford to underestimate the AIS’ young squad, but he was backing his team to return to the winners’ list.“We go into every game confident, we just didn’t play well enough last week,” Harrower said. “I think you’ll see a different team this week.”The Spirit has gone back to basics in training after one of the club’s worst matches of the season last weekend.The squad is beginning to recover from niggling injuries, with Deanna Smith close to full fitness, while Kristi Harrower’s Achilles injury has improved enough for her to train multiple times this week.Gabrielle Richards’ sore knee continues to be a concern, but the in-form centre has been able to play through the pain and will test the AIS youngsters at both ends of the court.The Spirit has a short turnaround for its next match on Wednesday against third-placed Bulleen at Bendigo Stadium, followed by a return match at home against the AIS next Saturday.

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