AS BENDIGO Spirit slumped to a third-consecutive defeat, Sunday’s frustrating two point loss to Perth Lynx went a long way to summing up their WNBL season.
Despite moments of brilliance – in particular a purple patch in the second quarter which allowed the Spirit to skip out to a game-high 11 point lead – inconsistency at key moments ultimately led to their down fall.
By contrast the Lynx’s biggest lead of the game was four points, a margin they kept for the bulk of the second half of the final quarter.
The Spirit, despite surrendering an early three-point lead in the final quarter, had their chances to snatch a win, even denying the Lynx a late basket when they trailed 68-66 in the dying moments.
But they were unable to get a shot up, leaving coach Simon Pritchard and his players to lament another close loss at home, eight days after they were beaten in overtime by championship contenders Melbourne Boomers.
“We’ve competed really well against Perth in all our games, but just had small three or four-minute patches where we haven’t been good,” he said.
“We knew their scout and particularly on our home court we thought we had a good chance today (Sunday).
“We had a crack and had a lead, but a few plays just didn’t go our way; there was a nice drive that was called a charge – one of those marginal ones, which lost us a little bit of momentum.
“We did a great job defending that last (Perth) play, but we just couldn’t get a shot off in time, which we should have been a bit more aware of.
“We had one shot on us last week (against the Boomers, which sent the game into overtime). Maybe if we got a shot up the Gods might have given us one back, but it wasn’t to be.”
Abbey Wehrung shone brightest for the Spirit in her 100th WNBL game, with an equal team-high 15 points – seven of them coming in an impressive opening quarter.
Marena Whittle was a constant thorn in the Lynx side and finished with 11 points and four rebounds, while the returning Nadeen Payne added 15 points and four rebounds.
Asia Taylor led the Lynx with 20 points and eight rebounds, with top support from livewire guard Katie Rae Ebzery (14 points, six rebounds, three assists).
The loss – coupled with a heavy defeat to ladder leaders Canberra on Friday night – dropped the Spirit to 7-12.
Their home record sits at 4-4 ahead of a Thursday night clash against Adelaide Lightning.
The Spirit were able to defeat the Lightning in Bendigo in round four and Pritchard backed his ‘proud’ playing group to come out fighting against the Lightning.
“I thought our defence against Adelaide was probably our best defence for the year; we were really up and about, really pressuring the ball and rotating strongly,” he said.
“They’re running hot at the moment but we match up pretty well against them.
“We can still shape the finals and we have a fair sense of pride about how we got about it – we wants to really compete right through until the end of the season.”
Perth coach Andy Stewart said his side had got the tough encounter it had been expecting, given the Lynx were on the end of a three-game road stretch.
“We always know Bendigo seems to be good at home and we have always struggled when we get them second on the weekend),” he said.
“A couple of times they have actually whacked us. We’ve been three a row on the road now, so we knew fatigue might be factor.”