The Bendigo Spirit showed a ton of grit to recover from an embarrassing first quarter to stretch WNBL title contender the Adelaide Lightning at Bendigo Stadium on Thursday night.
The Spirit had one of the worst quarters in WNBL history to open the game as the visitors raced to a 32-2 lead.
The Spirit were 1-16 from the field in the first quarter and committed seven turnovers, while the Lightning made the Spirit defence look second-rate.
The Spirit's only basket for the quarter came with one minute remaining on the clock when Meg McKay hit a baseline jump shot.
After a humiliating start, Spirit coach Tracy York asked her players for a response at the quarter-time huddle.
The response York received stunned the Lightning and the Spirit almost pulled off an amazing recovery.
From 30 points down, the Spirit dug deep to cut the deficit to 18 points at half-time.
They maintained their momentum after the main break and opened with a 17-5 run to get within six points with a tick under six minutes remaining in the third quarter.
The Spirit had further chances to eat into the margin, but they missed a couple of three-point attempts.
At the other end, Lightning star Steph Talbot (twice) and former Spirit forward Marena Whittle connected on three-pointers to ease Adelaide's nerves, extend the lead to 17 and seemingly sink the Spirit.
After spending a lot of energy to get back into the game it would have been understandable if the Spirit dropped away, particularly considering the understrength Spirit were playing against a full-strength Adelaide side.
However, that's not the way this Spirit group thinks.
Despite having so much stacked against them, the Spirit found another gear.
From 17 points down with 8:36 to play in the final term, the Spirit launched a 17-4 run to get within four points with four minutes to play.
The margin was still four points with 90 seconds remaining and the Spirit in possession of the ball.
In a similar story to the early in the third term, the Spirit missed three opportunities at the offensive end that really would have put Adelaide under the pump.
The Lightning's import Kiana Williams finally landed the knockout blow with a lay-up inside the final 30 seconds.
Adelaide won 84-77 - an unlikely scoreline after the amazing events of the first quarter.
Anneli Maley once again led the Spirit with 21 points, 12 rebounds and four assists.
Tessa Lavey had one of her best games of the season, scoring 19 points to go with six assists and five rebounds.
Guard Alex Wilson sparked the Spirit in the second quarter with her defensive energy and she finished the match with 14 points, seven rebounds, two assists and four blocks.
The Spirit travel to Tasmania on Friday to prepare for two matches against the Southside Flyers.
The Spirit and Flyers meet in Glenorchy on Saturday night and again next Wednesday.
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