The Bendigo Spirit didn't win the game, but they gained admirers in Friday night's 77-67 WNBL loss to the Townsville Fire at Bendigo Stadium.
In their first game for a month and already without Leilani Mitchell (pregnant) and Tessa Lavey (health and safety protocols), the Spirit lost shooting guard Maddie Garrick to an ankle injury in the second quarter.
Despite having the odds stacked against them, the Spirit never threw in the towel and they cut a double-figure deficit to be within two points of the Fire with six minutes remaining in the match.
Down the stretch is where they missed the experience and steady hands of Mitchell and Lavey.
The Spirit's offensive execution stalled and they went scoreless for four minutes.
At the other end, the class of Townsville point guard Sug Sutton proved to be decisive.
The former WNBA guard struggled with her shot in the first half, but with the game on the line in the final few minutes she drained some key baskets and set up her team-mates with pinpoint passing.
Anneli Maley again played her heart out for the Spirit.
She would have had double-figures in rebounds as well, but the game statistics were out of order.
Alex Wilson took on the starting point guard role for the Spirit and scored 15 points.
Centre Meg McKay (13 points) did plenty of work in the paint, while Demi Skinner (12 points) showed some encouraging signs in her first match of the season.
The Spirit (1-5) travel to Canberra on Saturday to prepare for Sunday's match with the Capitals.
Then they return to Bendigo to host the Sydney Uni Flames on Tuesday night.
Garrick's ankle injury is likely to keep her out of both matches, while Lavey will also miss the next two games.
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