THE Bendigo Spirit responded sensationally to a 15-point deficit to notch its first win of the WNBL season against Sydney on Saturday night.
Trailing 37-22 during the second quarter and missing sidelined captain Kelsey Griffin (hamstring precaution), the Spirit were facing the prospect of falling to 0-5.
But after trimming the deficit to single figures at half-time the Spirit then produced a dominant second half to run over the top of the Flames and win 82-66 at Bendigo's Red Energy Arena.
Avenging their loss to Sydney in Mildura three weeks earlier, the catalyst for the Spirit win was a third-quarter blitz set up by some stifling defensive pressure.
The Spirit outscored the Flames 28-9 for the term as they went from nine points down at half-time to 10 up at three quarter-time.
Abbey Wehrung ignited the Spirit with a back-to-back three-pointers early in the third quarter before Alica Froling imposed herself on the game.
Froling scored 10-straight points for the Spirit, which included consecutive three-point plays as the Spirit gained the momentum.
Aggressive under the basket, Froling was able to get herself to the free throw line eight times for the quarter, making seven of her shots.
The Spirit closed the quarter out on a 9-0 run over the final 1:52 to lead 65-55 at three quarter-time.
There was plenty of energy in the crowd spurring the Spirit on, with the noise reaching fever-pitch with 3:28 left when the Flames' Emma Clarke missed a pair of free-throws.
And that meant a free cheeseburger from McDonalds for those in attendance under the "they miss, we eat" promotion if an opposition player misses both free throws.
While the Spirit had a decisive lead at three quarter-time, the question was could they avoid the same late fadeout that had cost them against Melbourne the previous week?
In that game six days earlier Bendigo went from 12 points up at three quarter-time to losing by two.
This time, though, the Spirit was able to keep the scoreboard ticking over in the final term and hold the Flames at bay.
The Spirit closed the game out with a 17-11 final term and as they did during the third quarter, didn't allow the Flames to score consecutive baskets.
Unlike the previous game when Griffin carried a heavy scoring load for the Spirit with 33 points against Melbourne, this time it was an offensive spread for the Spirit.
The trio of Alex Wilson, Froling and Casey Samuels each scored 17 points.
Samuels gave the Spirit enormous spark off the bench with her most productive game of the season so far.
Samuels' 17 points included three three-pointers, while she also hauled down seven rebounds.
The Spirit shot 18-of-23 from the free-throw line, including Alex Wilson going 8-of-9 in what was a strong all-round game.
Wilson also had six rebounds and four assists.
Froling's 17 points were accompanied by seven rebounds, one assist, one block and one steal before she fouled out late.
Wehrung scored 12 points, hitting on four three-pointers.
The Spirit shot 10-of-27 from three-point range, including Micah Simpson coming off the bench in the last minute and connecting from long range.
Ruth Davis was a strong defensive presence for the Spirit with six rebounds, three steals and two blocks to go with her eight points.
One of the major threats posed to the Spirit by the Flames was reigning WNBL MVP Cayla George.
By quarter-time George had already grabbed eight rebounds in what was a history-making night as she became the all-time WNBL rebounds leader.
However, after getting into early foul trouble George was restricted to just over 16 minutes in which she had 14 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks.
The game was also the Sydney debut of Australian Opals captain Tess Madgen - a former MVP for the Bendigo Spirit.
Madgen had seven points, five rebounds and three assists for the Flames, whose side also included Bendigo's Ahlise Hurst.
The Flames signed Hurst as a development player this season and back in her hometown she scored six points - both three-pointers.
The Flames certainly got hot from long-range during the second quarter.
After an entertaining - and physical - opening term the Flames led 18-17 before going on a 19-4 run to start the second quarter.
Included in those 19 Sydney points were five three-pointers that put Bendigo on the backfoot before the home team responded.
Having led 37-22 with 4:54 left in the second term, over the remainder of the game the Flames were outscored 60-29 by the Spirit.
Bendigo continues its season next Saturday with an interstate trip to play the Adelaide Lightning.