Their best basketball of the 2020 WNBL season wasn’t quite enough to see the Villawood Bendigo Spirit get home against the JCU Townsville Fire on Saturday afternoon.
The young Spirit played three-and-a-half quarters of stunning basketball to fall just short, going down 91-81 in a fast-paced game in Townsville.
In the process, the Spirit has unveiled yet another young star, with Kiwi sensation Mary Goulding setting the Townsville stadium alight.
Goulding finished with 19 points, equal top-scoring for the Spirit with captain Tessa Lavey.
Lavey’s impressive season rolled on, with the Opal also finishing with 11 assists, seven rebounds, and the Spirit’s only block for the game.
Goulding and Lavey were the keys to the Spirit’s strong start, with Bendigo leading 26-15 at quarter time, off the back of six points from Goulding and seven from Lavey.
It was Goulding’s transition that was unstoppable in the first term, as the Spirit’s pace worried the Fire.
Coach Tracy York knew the Fire would target Lavey and Carley Ernst, who was averaging more than 18 points a game in 2020. She urged her young stars to step up, and they did.
Six players knocked down shots in the first quarter, and it was making a big difference.
As expected, the Fire came back hard at the start of the second quarter, cutting the lead from 12 to four mid-way through the term.
But in what must have pleased York, the Spirit fought back, with Goulding hitting a three, followed straight away with another from Cassidy McLean.
However, it was a former Spirit star who stood up in the third quarter, with Shyla Heal dominating to help the Fire turn a seven-point point half-time deficit into an 11-point lead at three quarter time.
The Spirit ran out the game well in the final quarter, winning it by one point and showing the intensity they had in the first half.
York singled out Lavey and Goulding for their performances.
“The girls were highly competitive and Tessa and Mary led the way for us,” she said.
“We got off to a very strong start and put pressure on the rim and on Townsville.
“Unfortunately the last five mins of the third quarter was costly as Townsville found their touch, outscoring us 29-11.“We battled in the fourth but Townsville had found their groove and finished strongly.”
The Spirit has a chance to get revenge when they take on the Fire on Tuesday at 8pm Bendigo time.