Suzy Batkovic scored 26 points and scored a crucial basket at the end of the fourth in her return to the lineup as the Adelaide Lightning defeated the Bendigo Spirit 97-87 in overtime to all but clinch first place on the WNBL ladder with just two rounds remaining until finals.
After missing the previous three games due to a back injury, Batkovic dominated inside to help lift the Lightning’s record to 17-3. The MVP candidate also added 13 rebounds and five assists as her side outscored the Spirit 15-5 in overtime to seal the win.
Bendigo was led by point guard Kristi Harrower who finished with 28 points, eight assists and four rebounds for the Spirit who held a five-point lead heading into the final quarter before falling, dropping its record to 11-9 and leaving it in a bitter race for a finals position over the next two weeks.
Tess Madgen and Gabe Richards added 18 points each for the home side in the loss while Angela Marino and Jo Hill added 21 and 20 points, respectively, for the victors.
Adelaide shot a blistering 71 percent from the field in the first quarter, holding a 31-28 lead. Marino led the way for the Lightning, scoring 11 of her 21 points as the visitors converted on 13 of their first 18 field goal attempts.
The teams continued to trade blows with a flurry of scoring in the second until Bishop’s free throws tied the game at 49-49 heading into halftime.
The Spirit jumped out to its biggest lead of the game in the third quarter on Harrower’s three-point play that made it 68-60 with just less than four minutes remaining and held a five point cushion heading into the fourth.
With Abby Bishop forced to the bench after picking up her fifth foul early in the fourth, the Lightning again turned to Batkovic who scored to make it 78-76 with just over four minutes left.
With under 30 seconds remaining and scores level at 80, Harrower drew a foul on the perimeter and converted both free throws to give Bendigo the lead.
After a timeout, though, Adelaide answered with Batkovic once again coming through with a jumper from the free-throw line to tie scores once again with 11 seconds left.
With a chance to win, Harrower missed a pull-up jumper near the buzzer, sending the game to overtime with scores tied at 82.
In the extra session, Adelaide seized control, scoring the first five points to lead 87-82 before Madgen answered with a 3-pointer that cut the lead to 3.
The Lightning were simply too much in the end, though, with Marino hitting a shot from distance and converting multiple free throws to extend the lead to 10 as the final buzzer sounded.
Adelaide now face Bulleen at home next week while the Spirit face a virtual must-win game at home against Sydney in Round 17.
By Joe Turner
Adelaide Lightning 97 (Suzy Batkovic 26, Angela Marino 21, Jo Hill 20) defeated Bendigo Spirit 87 (Kristi Harrower 28, Tess Madgen 18, Gabe Richards 18)