There's no doubt Wednesday will be a surreal evening for Bendigo native Piper Dunlop.
The 18-year-old rising star will have the opportunity to run out on court in front of fans at the Bendigo Stadium donned in the Spirit colours for the team's first home game of the 2021/22 WNBL season against the Melbourne Boomers.
"I spent a lot of my childhood watching players such as Gabe Richards, Kelly Wilson and Tessa Lavey in action at the Stadium," Dunlop said.
"Now I can't believe it's my chance to run out on the main court in the Spirit uniform."
Dunlop made her WNBL debut last year with the Spirit but was unable to play at home in Bendigo because of the Queensland hub-season.
"This really is the cherry on top for all of the hard work I've put in over the years to get to where I am now."
"My journey shows how great of a pathway we have in Bendigo for basketballers.
"Starting from Biddy Ball, junior Braves all the way up to the Spirit.
"Kudos to Bendigo Basketball for having such a strong pathway."
Spirit head into the game on the back of their season-opener loss to reigning champions Southside Flyers.
Despite the 11-point defeat, coach Tracy York was proud of the way her side performed.
She said the Spirit would need to repeat those effort levels against the Melbourne Boomers.
"We fought right to the end (against Southside),'' York said.
"Even with 30 seconds to go we were stealing the ball and scoring it.
"We showed some good character and that's the way we have to play.
"Melbourne Boomers are arguably a title favourite again this season.
"They have a strong core group that's been together for a while and they've added two quality imports.
"We're back at home and we want to play hard and that's what we'll do."
Sweet-shooting forward Demi Skinner will be on the sidelines for another six weeks.
Her absence opens the door for the Spirit's young players to gain experience.
"We'd love to have Demi on the floor, but we'll continue to work with her through her recovery,'' York said.
York said the long-awaited return to Bendigo Stadium was a relief for the players and coaching staff.
"It feels like years, it probably is years (since we've played at home),'' York said.
"It will be great to be back in front of our home fans and, hopefully, we will get some good crowds to come along to get their fix of basketball and watch the girls and enjoy some quality basketball."
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