Match Preview – Bendigo Spirit vs Adelaide Lightning
The Lightning got a shock the last time they met the Spirit at the Lights, they’ll be looking to turn the tables and switch the Spirit off in northwest Victoria as they begin their road trip for a double header this weekend…
WHEN: THURSDAY FEBRUARY 24 – 5:30PM SA TIME
WHERE: Bendigo Stadium
Last time they met:
WNBL 21-22: ADELAIDE LIGHTNING 62 (Brook 16, Shook 12, Basham 11, Wehrung 9) DEFEATED BY BENDIGO SPIRIT 74 (Maley 26, Garrick 17, Lavey 12, McKay 8, Wilson 7) at the Lights Community and Sports Centre
Steph Talbot vs. Maddie Garrick
Talbot returned to the WNBL in fine form after the Opals qualifiers notching a near triple double against the Flyers. No doubt she’s in the top candidates for MVP this season and is every chance of going back-to-back in consecutive seasons. Her inclusion this time around will be a very difficult matchup for the Spirit. Her ability to hit the long range two off those screens was vastly missing last time, the Lightning only made 5 mid-range attempts outside the keyway from 9 small opportunities.
Garrick showed all her experience in the last matchup nailing 17 points with 6 of her triples coming from the left wing, she made only 1-5 from the right. The Lightning defence is going to have to force her that direction away from her favourite areas if they don’t want a repeat performance.
Alanna Smith vs. Anneli Maley
Its Opal vs the next in line Opal with Smith returning to duel with Maley. Smith was the WNBL player of the week in Round 11 with 23 points at 62 percent from the field, 10 rebounds, 3 assists and a block in a stat stuffing performance. Her presence in the paint and energy is one of a few players that can go with the engine and desire of many people’s favourite for the MVP this season.
Maley is having an incredible season and needs to be highlighted as a key to this Spirit line-up yet again. She has double-doubled in every game except one and her average in the last four games is 21 points, 16.25 rebounds (including 4.75 offensive) and 3.25 assists per game in some mind-boggling numbers. She dropped 9-13 under the ring last time off those offensive rebounds and back cuts. The scouts of the Lightning will have been hard at work to make sure it doesn’t happen but no one so far this season has been able to find a way to stop the power forward.
Brooke Basham vs. Jennie Rintala
Bash had her best outing of the WNBL last time these teams met and as form follows against certain sides, she may well be called upon again to come out ultra-aggressive against the Spirit second unit. 11 points she clocked from outside shots and drives and really provided for the Lightning. Expect her to see some court time considering what she did against the Spirit last time.
The Spirit have added a familiar face back into their lineup with the NBL1 Central West Adelaide Bearcat and former Lightning player Rintala. She certainly adds to the forward rotations of the Spirit and given she’s familiar with many of the players from the Lightning from the state competition, it may happen she sees her first lot of court-time for the Spirit and will be keen to prove with another window of opportunity comes the moment to show what she can do in the WNBL in her limited minutes.
The Last Strike
Most fans walked away from the last home game against the Spirit probably the most disappointed they’ve been all season. This one will have a taste of payback and resuming the status quo with the Lightning looking to charge towards its first finals appearance since the 2019-2020 season. The Spirit have been nothing short of competitive and are pulling some big upsets this season lead by the general Maley in the front court. They have experience in key positions which hopefully the return of Talbot and Kiana Williams who didn’t play last time either will help to support the Lightning’s cause.
Gathering some momentum up against the Flyers and Spirit sets up a run into the top two with a double header over the west looming over the shoulders of the Lightning girls. A couple of losses here though and the scrap for minor placings in the finals will be on.
Lightning fans watch with interest to see which way the pendulum swings…