Last gasp chance for wins for WNBL's Bendigo Spirit


A BATTLING Bendigo Spirit looks set to regain lively guard Heather Oliver for their penultimate 2017-18 WNBL season match against Adelaide Lightning.

Oliver has missed the bottom-placed Spirit’s last three games – and four of their last five – but trained with the squad on Wednesday morning before she passed a fitness test.

Her inclusion will be a major boost for a defence that has been severely stretched in her absence in recent losses to Townsville Fire, by a club record 58 points, and Sydney Uni Flames (33 points).

But the Spirit face concerns on another front with veteran centre Gabe Richards believed to have a fractured knuckle on her left hand and fractured thumb on right hand.

Not good news for a team looking to shut down Lightning star Abby Bishop, who is ranked in the top seven in the WNBL in both points scored (15.75) and rebounds (9.3).

“There’s swelling on both hands, so that’s going to be a pretty tough match-up,” coach Simon Pritchard said.

“So, Nadeen (Payne) is going to have to spend some time on Abby.

“We’ve always had trouble with Colleen Planeta (10.3ppg and 4.5rpg), for whatever reason she has traditionally caused us trouble, so she’s going to be a key match-up.

“And Nicole Seekamp and Aimie Clydesdale have both been playing pretty well.”

The scheduling makes this an intriguing match-up, with Adelaide holding a 2-0 advantage in games played this season.

But both games were played early in the season and before the end of October.

Spirit star Ash Karaitiana described Wednesday’s training as up-beat and positive and was confident the team could replicate the effort which brought a much-needed win against Dandenong Rangers last Thursday.

“Neither of us is going to make finals, but at the same time we both want to play for that win,” she said.

“Adelaide is definitely beatable. The first game we went into overtime with one of our starters out.

“It’s definitely do-able, but the hard work needs to be there and the commitment and sharing the ball and playing as a team needs to be there as well.

“When we play like we did against Dandenong it’s exciting and fun … we need to build on that.”

The Spirit play their final game of the season at home against finals-bound Sydney Uni Flames on Sunday at 2pm.