BENDIGO Spirit players insist there will be no shortage of motivation as they look to end their WNBL season on a high.
The Spirit will host an in-form Adelaide Lightning at Bendigo Stadium on Thursday night, before ending their 2018-19 season against top-of-the-ladder Canberra Capitals on January 19.
Those clashes come on the heels of a three-game losing streak, underpinned by an overtime loss to the second placed Melbourne Boomers, and gut-wrenching two point defeat against the finals-bound Perth Lynx.
Third-year Spirit star Nadeen Payne expected the frustration of those close losses to spur the team into action against a Lightning side, rated by many pundits as one of the championship favourites.
“They are really on a roll now … one of the best teams in the league right now,” she said.
“We’ve been really close (against Melbourne and Perth) and it’s been really hard, but it shows we are a team that doesn’t give up.
“We are right up there with the top four teams. We obviously can’t make finals, but we can certainly change some other teams’ positions on the ladder and shake things up a bit.
“We will finish the last two games hard – this is a hard-working team.”
The Spirit will enter the clash at 7-12 and will miss the finals for the fourth-straight season.
Payne admitted it had been a difficult week for the playing group following the announcement coach Simon Pritchard would be departing at season’s end.
The fourth-year coach was advised by Bendigo Stadium Limited his contract would not be renewed for a fifth season.
Payne, who has taken her game to another level under Pritchard and won the club’s MVP award last season, believed the coaching situation would only help make the Spirit a tighter group.
“It’s been pretty rough – a bit of adversity – but we hope not to let that affect our game,” she said.
“We will just try and enjoy it with Simon and enjoy it with the group.
“It will probably be a little bit more sadder after the season, knowing it’s the end of era.
“I really have a lot of time for Simon and he is going to be in my life for a long time after basketball.
“He’s a great person and I am very thankful for all the opportunities he has given me, and this one (with the Spirit) has been a big one.”
A Spirit newcomer in 2018-19, Cassidy McLean also praised Pritchard’s influence since her arrival from Newcastle and her former WNBL home with Sydney Uni Flames.
“It’s sad because Simon has given me a lot of great opportunities down here – I have a lot of respect for him,” she said.
“Simon is our coach, we give him everything …. (and) all our respect.
“But we’re still professional athletes and we have a job to do.”
Tip-off on Thursday night is at 7pm.