THE Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) continued on Friday night, with the Bendigo Spirit playing host to the Townsville Fire at Bendigo Stadium. Both sides had enjoyed indifferent starts to their 2021/22 campaigns, with the Fire holding two wins heading into this clash, while the Spirit had obtained just one themselves. COVID had wreaked a fair bit of havoc for both sides over the last few weeks, so it was a refreshing change to see the two sides hit the court. It was an intriguing matchup heading into the clash, given the amount of time these teams have missed recently, but it was the Fire who proved the stronger side, producing a strong four-quarter performance to take down the undermanned Spirit to the tune of 10 points.
The first term opened in reasonably scrappy fashion, with neither side able to break away from their opponents early. The Spirit were firing from deep in the opening minutes, with Alex Wilson getting in on the action early. There was plenty going on in the first term, from players fighting for loose balls on the ground to some exhilarating offence from both sides from inside the paint and from deep. After a back-and-forth term, it was Bendigo who headed into quarter time with a two-point advantage. Their offence was rolling smoothly and there was plenty of confidence for their performance in the remainder of the match.
The second period saw the Fire really get their game going, as they came out from the first break looking a different side. The Bendigo players were unable to maintain the momentum they built in the first term, as they found themselves overrun by a determined Townsville side. Suddenly, the Spirit’s lead was erased as the Fire grabbed control of the contest with some strong work on both ends of the court. Townsville took an eight-point lead into the main break, with the match certainly in danger of getting away from the home side.
The second half opened with the Spirit fighting back to keep the game within reach in the third term. They were able to match the effort and intensity of their opponents in the term, and they certainly made sure the match was far from dead and buried in this time. Both teams produced some strong work inside the three-point line, with some physical play resulting in some impressive baskets. The lead remained unaffected by the time three-quarter time rolled around, with the Spirit still trailing by eight, but still giving themselves a chance in the final period.
The final term saw scoring slow up, with a combination of fatigue and improved defence playing a role for both sides. The Fire were able to once again prevent their opponents from reaching the offensive heights of the second term, but they were also unable to conjure enough scoring themselves to produce a remarkable comeback. The Fire ended up winning by 10 points, in what ended up being quite an entertaining clash.
It was a valiant effort from the Spirit, who were missing a serious amount of firepower and experience in this match. They battled bravely for all four quarters, and if not for a second quarter blitz from their opponents, they would have been a real chance to cause an upset. The coaches would be pleased with the efforts of Anneli Maley (18 points) and Wilson (15 points). However, the Fire were too strong, producing a number of contributors to claim their third win of the season.