THE Bendigo Spirit escaped with a five-point win over the Melbourne Boomers in the WNBL on Saturday night in what was a Jekyll and Hyde performance.
The Spirit – now 2-5 – went from scoring 29 points in the second quarter to just three during the third term.
And from 11 points up with just over four minutes left in the game, the Spirit later had to scrap in the dying stages for a 71-66 win at the Bendigo Stadium.
The win was a 32-point turnaround on their earlier meeting this season, which the Boomers had won 90-63.
The Spirit produced an energetic first half at both ends of the floor to lead by 14 at the main break, 49-35.
They were aggressive in their attack on the basket and got to the foul line 16 times in the first half, converting 13 of their free-throws.
The last three of the Spirit’s free-throws came after Melbourne’s Liz Cambage was tech fouled, leaving the Boomers’ star with three fouls at the main break.
However, the Spirit’s offence stalled in the third quarter, with Bendigo mustering just three points for the term – one free-throw to Nadeen Payne and a second chance opportunity to Rachel Banham with three seconds remaining.
Having shot 16-of-31 from the field in the first half, the Spirit made just one-of-13 in the third term meltdown.
Yet the Spirit were able to maintain their lead at three quarter-time on the back of their defence, which restricted the Boomers to 14 points for the term.
Having surrendered the momentum in the third quarter, skipper Kelsey Griffin gave the Spirit the perfect start to the last term with an early three-pointer.
Griffin’s three was the beginning of a 12-4 run for the Spirit that gave them a 64-53 advantage with just over four minutes remaining.
By that stage Cambage had well and truly fouled out, with her game ending with 9:15 left in the final term with 14 points and nine rebounds.
But the Spirit were far from safe as the Boomers reeled off 11 points in a row, with Maddie Garrick levelling the scores with 1:56 remaining.
However, the Spirit hung tough down the stretch to pull away for the five-point win, with Banham helping to ice the game with two free throws with 16.9 seconds left courtesy of a tech foul against the Melbourne bench.
Griffin scored 11 of her 13 points in the final term and also hauled down two key defensive rebounds late. Griffin also had five blocks – including one on Cambage in the opening seconds of the match.
Banham led the Spirit scoring with 17 points – her first nine all coming from three-pointers – while Gabe Richards added 13 points.