An inspired performance from Anneli Maley was the catalyst for the Bendigo Spirit to record one of the gutsiest regular season wins in the club's WNBL history on Thursday night.
The Spirit upstaged fourth-placed Townsville 76-71 on the Fire's home court in amazing fashion.
The understrength Spirit only made two field goals for the entire final term, but still managed to hold off the Fire through sheer determination.
There was no-one more determined to see their team win the game than Maley.
The forward played 38 minutes and 20 seconds of the 40 minutes and posted 25 points, 19 rebounds, four steals, two assists and one block.
She played the tense final three minutes of the match with four fouls to her name, but still managed to come up with match-defining plays at both ends of the court.
The Spirit led by seven points early in the final quarter, but their offensive execution stalled.
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In a six-minute period the Spirit scored just one point. Thankfully, their defence and rebounding helped restrict the Fire to nine points in the same period and the home side led by one - when it could have been a much greater margin.
Alex Wilson knocked down two free throws to steady the Spirit ship and they regained the lead with three minutes on the clock.
Carly Boag scored the Spirit's first field goal of the final term with two minutes remaining to stretch the lead to three points.
Fire star Monique Billings cut the margin to one before Wilson and Maley produced a stretch of play that summed up the win.
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The duo showed great fight and effort to crash the offensive boards and picked up an offensive rebound each on the back of missed shots, which led to a Wilson bucket from under the basket to make the margin three points with one minute to play.
The Fire couldn't score on their next possession before Wilson grabbed another offensive rebound on a Spirit missed field goal.
Wilson worked the ball to Tessa Lavey, who was fouled with 25 seconds on the clock.
Lavey had the chance to all but ice the game, but she missed both free throws.
Remarkably, Maley rebounded the ball off Lavey's second miss - a fourth-straight offensive board for the Spirit.
The Fire fouled Maley and this time there was no missing from the line.
Fittingly, Maley iced the game with four free throws in the final 22 seconds.
It was the Spirit's best win of the 2021-22 WNBL season and improved their record to 3-8.
Maddie Garrick was a key player in the win, scoring 18 points.
Maley and Garrick combined to score 19 of the Spirit's 22 points in the third term.
Wilson's final term was crucial for the Spirit.
The athletic guard didn't have a great shooting night, but she made the big plays when it counted and finished with eight points and six rebounds.
The Spirit won the rebounding battle 49-29, including a staggering 22-9 advantage on the offensive glass.
The Spirit's next match is at home against the Adelaide Lightning on February 24.
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