It was a hot day in Bendigo, but not hot enough to fan the Sydney Uni Flames to victory as the Bendigo Bank Spirit took win number 15 of the season by eight points, 77-69.
Sydney led at both quarter time and half time by two and one point respectively, but a second-half fightback by the Spirit saw them come out on top.
April Sykes was the catalyst for the Flames’ strong first half scoring 13 points, Katie-Rae Ebzery while Rohanee Cox had 12 of her team-high 17 to propel Sydney to a 39-38 buffer on 48% shooting.
For Bendigo Kelly Wilson had 8 at the half to go with Kristi Harrower’s six assists, however it was the performance of Gabe Richards, who was in hospital six days ago that was key for the home side.
Richards had a game-high 22 points and nine rebounds in the win on 9/12 shooting, and coach Bernie Harrower said the team had missed her physical presence last week.
“We really missed Gabe, it was great to have her back tonight and she put in a great performance,” Harrower said.
“When she can have a game like that and Kelly Wilson (1 points) can score like she has been in recent weeks, it really is a big boost as we don’t need to rely on Kristi to score 20 or so points.”
Harrower finished with only 9 points but dished out 10 dimes in a great performance, sparking her team’s third quarter fightback.
Bendigo took control of the game in the second half, but the sharpshooting of Flames guard Sarah Graham kept the visitors well and truly in the contest.
Graham had only two points at the half, but was perfect from beyond the arc in the second making four of four three-pointers to give Sydney a puncher’s chance.
It was not to be though, although Sydney came at the Spirit late they couldn’t pull off a miracle comeback, handing another win to Bendigo.
Sydney were led by Cox, who played brilliantly to score 17 points (9/10 FT) and also pulled down eight boards and recorded five steals, while Sykes finished with 16 points and Ebzery had 10 points and seven rebounds.
Richards was Bendigo’s standout player, but along with the performances of herself, Harrower and Wilson, Chelsea Aubry chipped in with 9 rebounds, six of which were offensive.
Harrower heaped praise on the Flames after the game, saying they could match up with any side in the competition.
“They’re a very good side, as good as any in this league. They can flat out score and they proved that they are far better than their record shows tonight,” Harrower said.
“Our focus is now on playing Logan on Sunday which another tough game, they’re especially good playing at home so we have to make sure we’re ready for that.”
Sydney take on the Dandenong Rangers in Dandenong on Sunday while Bendigo travel to Logan to play the Thunder, rounding out the respective sides’ round 14 fixtures.
Story by Joel Peterson
101.5 Fresh FM
Bendigo Spirit Media