The Bendigo Spirit sprung into action with a win on the road against a highly-fancied Melbourne Boomers outfit in round one of the WNBL on Saturday (October 20).
Point guard Nat Hurst (12 points, 3 assists) led the Spirit to a 82-72 win against the Boomers, who were playing at home last Friday evening. Hurst was supported by Marena Whittle (21 points, 4 steals), Nadeem Payne (16 points, 5 rebounds) and American import Rebecca Tobin (15 points, 9 rebounds, 5 steals).
The Boomers’ much-vaunted line up, which includes four Opals players, was run down by a Spirits outfit that was hustling and able to score when it counted. Point guard Lindsay Allen (18 pts, 5 asst) and Steph Talbot (20pts) top-scored for a Boomers team that had only just come together.
Newly re-signed coach Guy Molloy was calm and optimistic after the loss.
“We’ve got a very talented team,” he said. “We’ve got some great players, you know [but] frankly we just looked like a team that had only four training sessions together.
“That’s not to take anything away from Bendigo. After the first quarter they controlled the game very well, made their shots and we didn’t have enough chemistry in our game just yet to come back.”
Spirit coach Simon Pritchard was pleased with his side’s performance.
“It was the team; it was a complete team effort,” he said. “We scored from different parts of the floor at different times and it wasn’t one individual.”
Pritchard singled out the effort of Rebecca Tobin in what was her first WNBL game.
“Bec’s a proven winner,” he said. “We wanted her to be threat and she was fantastic tonight. It’s the tip of the iceberg for Becca.”
The Spirit’s best player, Marena Whittle, was just as satisfied with her own performance.
“Of course you’re going to be a little bit nervous and super-excited,” she said. “I just put a lot of trust and confidence in the girls that they would have my back, and to their credit they completely did.”
Melbourne has a chance to bounce back this Friday night when they host the University of Canberra Capitals at Geelong Arena, while Bendigo will have home court advantage against the Dandenong Rangers on Saturday at 7pm.