Spirit douse Flames in WNBL breakthrough
DESPITE missing captain Kelsey Griffin and trailing by as much as 15 points during the second term, Bendigo Spirit got themselves on the board in the 2023/24 WNBL season with an incredible 82-66 victory over Sydney Flames at Red Energy Arena on Saturday.
After four consecutive losses to start the 2023/24 season, the Spirit rose from the ashes to deliver a brutal blow to the Flames who have been teetering outside the top few sides this season. Yet to string two wins together, Sydney continued its yo-yo form thus far, unable to capitalise on the momentum of the first half.
Full credit goes to the Spirit, who, led by a trio of players with 17 points – Casey Samuels, Alicia Froling and Alex Wilson – came from behind to pour on 28 points to nine in a third quarter blitz and runaway with the match.
When Lara McSpadden produced a clean layup with 4:54 on the clock in the second term, the Flames had increased their lead to 15 with a 37-22 advantage. From that point on though, Bendigo piled on a massive 60-29 to show it has the potential to do damage this season, especially given Griffin was not in the team.
Across the board, Bendigo took control with six more assists (17-11), and an 11 per cent greater efficiency from the field (41-30). Sydney still had its fair share of control, with 49 rebounds to 42, including double the amount of put-backs with 20-10.
Leading the charge on that front was Opal Cayla George who had 13 rebounds – five offensive – along with 14 points and four blocks. She was well supported by Emma Clarke (11 points, five rebounds) and Paige Bradley (11 points, two rebounds and two assists) as the Flames did their best, ut could not manage enough contributions across the board.
Usually prolific, Lauren Nicholson only shot 11 per cent from the field (one of nine), with Didi Richards (14 per cent from 1/7) and McSpadden (16 per cent from 1/6) also having chances. By comparison, the likes of Froling and Samuels shot at 60 per cent plus, while only Kelly Wilson (14 per cent from 1/7) was below 25. She produced in other ways though with seven defensive boards and five assists.
Bendigo has a seven-day break until taking on the Adelaide Lightning in South Australia on Saturday, December 2, while Sydney has until December 6 to also heads Adelaide for a meeting with the Lightning, before heading to Canberra for a huge contest against UC Capitals on December 8.