The story of the Villawood Bendigo Spirit’s eighth game of the 2020 WNBL season was one of the experienced superstar and a guaranteed future star.
The young Spirit found the going tough against the back-to-back reigning champions the University of Canberra Capitals, going down 51-87 at Townsville on Saturday night.
The star-studded Caps came out of the blocks quickly, with a 6-12 start half way through the first quarter.
But then two big threes from captain Tessa Lavey, one so far out she could have been on a glass-bottom boat on the Great Barrier Reef, brought the Spirit back level, with the game going basket for basket for the next few minutes.
The Spirit’s hustle at both ends of the court was impressive for the first eight minutes of the game, with five offensive rebounds to none.
But eight unanswered points to Canberra in the last two minutes of the quarter saw the Spirit down by that margin at the first break, 12-20.
The second quarter was a tough one for the Spirit, with lots of great looks and powerful drives giving the young side plenty of opportunities. But missed shots (4/15) and a 0-18 Canberra run put Bendigo down 21-42 at half time.
The Spirit came out fighting with a 6-1 start to the third term, in a blistering two minutes of basketball, only to see Canberra put on seven unanswered points in the next minute.
With a couple of minutes left in the third term, just as the relieving south west change blew into Bendigo, Spirit fans received a breath of fresh air from a different direction – all the way from Northern Queensland.
17 year old Piper Dunlop subbed on and, while the Spirit struggled with their shooting percentage all night, scored within 40 seconds.
Dunlop played out the rest of the game, finishing with six points, with a perfect record from the field, and some impressive work defensively, including matching up against WNBA star, league legend, and idol Kelsey Griffin (“Oh my God, I’m playing on Kelsey,” she told journalists after the game).
Lavey finished with 17 points and Demi Skinner found the basket late in the game to finish with nine, her second strong scoring performance in a row.
Coach Tracy York praised Dunlop for the enthusiasm and intensity she brought to the floor.
“Consistency is eluding us at the moment, but Piper was a bright spot, going three from three from the floor and holding up her end defensively,” she said.
The Spirit has a chance to get its first win of the season when they take on Perth on Tuesday night, 9pm Bendigo time.