Colleen Planeta rejects all hope of a Spirit win in Adelaide
The Adelaide Lightning have capped off an emotional day with a four- point win over Bendigo Spirit, 79-75.
Chris Lucas returned to the helm for the first time in the 2017/18 WNBL season, after battling kidney-cancer, and his players did not let him down in a spirited performance at Titanium Security Arena.
Ruth Hamblin and Abby Bishop were both assertive on the boards early, with four rebounds apiece in the first term.
Lightning’s Nicole Seekamp sparked an early run with a steal in the open court, leading to an easy two-points and giving the home side some early momentum.
Natalie Novosel was dynamic early, with a quick transition basket and deep three to give Lightning a five-point lead mid-way through the first period.
Bendigo amped up their defence, putting Adelaide under pressure, trapping Adelaide’s guards at every opportunity and causing early turnovers and slowing the home team’s offence.
However, Bendigo’s suffocating defence wasn’t enough to stop Lightning, with the home side taking a 6-point lead at the end of the first period, 22-16.
Lightning started the second-terms slow, allowing Bendigo to cut the quarter deficit of six to one.
Play was halted briefly on two occasions for injury, with Bendigo’s Betnijah Laney assisted off the court early and Adelaide’s Ruth Hamblin suffering a back injury mid-way through and taking no further part in the game.
Bendigo’s Gabrielle Richards proved hard to stop, scoring eight-points in the quarter. However, Lightning put their foot back on the gas to extend their lead by seven-points at half time.
The second half began in the same fashion as the first, with Bendigo playing high pressure defence and the Lightning targeting Bishop in the post.
Richards was efficient again for Bendigo shooting 6/9 from the floor and tallying 14-points.
Colleen Planeta was dynamic for the Lightning scoring 11-points and creating a spark that saw Lightning extend their lead to 15-points at the final break.
However, Bendigo weren’t going down without a fight. The visitors owned the start of the fourth, showing resistance cutting the fifteen-point deficit to ten with five minutes to play.
Four fouls to Bishop caused her to sit on the sidelines until the fourth, but as a captain does, she hit shots when it mattered
Novosel attacked the hoop at every opportunity she could, leading the Lightning home in what was a tough game.
Bendigo kept on fighting, and when Rachel Banham hit a three with 1:33 to play to cut the deficit to only two the game was either teams to win or lose.
The scores were tied with only a minute remaining Enter, Abby Bishop. The WNBA veteran hit a mid-range to give the home side the lead and grabbing and important rebound on the defensive end.
However, the scores were once again tied up after a stumble and turnover from Novosel gave Bendigo an easy two points with only 15.1 second to play.
A last-ditch heave from Novosel came up short leaving the scores tied at the end of regulation, 71 apiece, sending the teams into overtime.
Richards started overtime with a two point basket to give Bendigo the lead early, but when Bishop converted on two free throws the scores once again level leaving the epic game wide open.
Bishop fouled out with two-minutes remaining, giving an opportunity to stand up. And that’s exactly what Planeta did. The US import performed a match-winning block with 15 seconds remaining, which sealed a gutsy win by the Lightning.