BENDIGO Spirit coach Simon Pritchard is confident his side can overcome the loss of their star Kelsey Griffin against glamour side Melbourne Boomers on Friday night.
The all-Victorian clash will be played in Geelong. It is a Boomers’ home game.
Griffin will miss the game with personal commitments, a considerable blow for a Spirit team looking to rebound from an opening round loss and up against the strengthened Boomers, led by high-profile recruits Liz Cambage, Jenna O’Hea and Louella Tomlinson.
The Spirit are also sweating on physio reports for injured pair Gabe Richards (knee) and Heather Oliver (calf), who are both in doubt for the weekend, including Saturday’s 3pm home opener against Perth Lynx.
While it might appear there is plenty conspiring against the Spirit, Pritchard believed the task of overcoming the Boomers was within reach.
He said the side could draw positives from last week’s loss to Canberra Capitals, who sit 2-0 after the first week.
“We scored well, so offensively we did a really good job getting the ball up the floor quickly,” he said.
“Kelsey was really good in the third quarter when we were down and really tried to make plays.
”In the process of doing that it really freed up other people, then Nadeen (Payne) took over and had a really good patch as well.
“And Betnijah (Laney) was good throughout the game.”
Pritchard said the Spirit could ill-afford to have another sluggish start after they found themselves down 9-0 after five minutes and by 10 at quarter time.
“We did a terrible job putting pressure on their ball handler, which we hadn’t had that issue in pre-season,” he said.
“We did after half time, but we were just too far back.”
Like six of his rival coaches this season, much of Pritchard’s preparation for the Boomers will revolve around 204cm centre Cambage, who averaged 16 points in roughly 20 minutes of court time in two week one encounters.
He said the Spirit would likely have no-option but to double team the two-time Olympian, which could make life difficult for other Spirit defenders.
Import Rachel Banham said she was hoping to contribute more after her 10 points and four assists on debut.
“I didn’t play well, I had a lot of things I could have done better – communication-wise, knocking down more shots, just being better all-round” she said.
The 24-year-old viewed the absence of Griffin, who will play Saturday’s game at Bendigo Stadium, as a chance for everyone on the floor to step-up.
“It will present a different challenge for us, but we definitely have people ready to step up without her,” she said.
“That’s what’s so great about practice; we get to work on those things.
“Some of the girls who don’t get as many minutes and you don’t get to see are very capable of coming in to defend and play well.”