Basketball: Cambage to test Spirit in ‘vital’ preseason hit out

Bendigo Spirit coach Simon Pritchard has labelled a Women’s National Basketball League exhibition match against Melbourne Boomers in Ballarat as the “most important” game of the club’s preseason. 

KEY PLAYER: Australian Opals player Kelsey Griffin will be one of the stars taking to the court for Bendigo Spirit on Friday. Picture: Akuna Photography

KEY PLAYER: Australian Opals player Kelsey Griffin will be one of the stars taking to the court for Bendigo Spirit on Friday. Picture: Akuna Photography

The Boomers boast Australian basketball star and marquee player Liz Cambage, as well as Jenna O’Hea, who plays for Seattle Storm in the United States’ Women’s National Basketball Association, and Maddie Garrick, who has played with the Australian Opals. 

But the Spirit side is bolstered by the likes of American-Australian Kelsey Griffin, who has played in the United States, in the Euro League and with the Australian Opals. 

Pritchard said the opportunity for his players to test themselves against the 203cm Cambage before the season proper was crucial, especially since Spirit is set for a challenge as the only team in the WNBL without a centre taller than 198cm. 

“We want to test ourselves and our structures against a significant post player and we want to learn something about what we need to do in preparation for other teams,” Pritchard said. 

“We have to come up with a way of defending and attacking that (type of player), so the game against Melbourne is going to teach us about what we need to adjust, it’s massive, it’s vital.”

Pritchard said the game would be a learning opportunity for both the players and the coaches, with a chance the team would be exposed and forced to make changes.

But the Spirit coach said that did not mean his players would not be “up and about”.

“We’re going to play all of our team because it’s their opportunity to show us where they are at and what they’ve got,” Pritchard said. 

“We’ve gone for a very athletic perimeter-based team because we don’t have that dominant, big player… you’re going to see lots of three pointers thrown up and some pressure defence.

“The perimeter players are really high scoring and really athletic, so we’re going to play small ball against these bigger teams and really try run them off their feet.”

TEAM ROSTERS

Bendigo Spirit:

Rachel Banham, Kara Tessari, Heather Oliver, Ahlise Hurst, Ashleigh Spencer, Nadeen Payne, Jessie Rennie, Gabe Richards, Ebony Rolph, Ashleigh Karaitiana, Kelsey Griffin, Maddison Wild, Betnijah Laney.  

Melbourne Boomers:

Ash Grant, Louella Tomlinson, Britt Smart, Bec Cole, Kasey Burton, Bec Ott, Liz Cambage, Peri Kalka, Jenna O'Hea, Chelsea D'Angelo, Monique Conti, Maddie Garrick, Kalani Purcell, Courtney Duever.

MATCH DETAILS

Melbourne Boomers v Bendigo Spirit, Friday, September 22, Minerdome, 7.30pm

Tickets: Adult $16, Child $5, Concession $10