Melbourne find late-season form, rout Spirit 84-52

AFTER an even first quarter from both sides, the Melbourne Boomers ran away with Saturday’s only game in the remaining three quarters against the Bendigo Spirit, namely in the middle two periods where last year’s semi-finalists outscored their opponents 42-14, ultimately concluding matters 84-52 and extending their winning streak to four.

Given the Boomers’ red-hot form as of late, it did not shock many when Melbourne opened up the contest with a 7-0 run, which acted as a prelude to what would be a strong initial term for Guy Molloy’s squad.

Despite its opponent’s exceptional start to the game, Bendigo worked its way back into the contest leading into the first break. Backing their duo of Carley Ernst and Tessa Lavey, who had eight and six points respectively, the Spirit found themselves level with the Boomers 20-20 after 10 minutes of play, one of their best opening periods to date.

Again, the Boomers strung together another sizeable scoring run to start the second, concocting 14-straight points over the opening five minutes of the period and really separating themselves from this season’s likely wooden-spooners after an even first term.

Cayla George made her impact visible in the later stages of the first two quarters, accumulating 13 points, five rebounds and three assists as she led the charge in gaining her side a 38-23 half-time score line.

But with Tracy York’s side converting on just a single field goal in the second, it allowed Melbourne to take control of the contest and secure the driver’s seat in the process, thanks to individual efforts like Ezi Magbegor and Ashleigh Karaitiana’s in the first half.

Putting their advantage over 20 points in the penultimate period, the Boomers run to the finish line became relatively uneventful as they gave their secondary unit an abundance of court time in the second half.

Coach Molloy’s bench held their own to conclude the third, extending their side’s lead to 28 points at the turn of the third with Bendigo totalling just 11 points in the third quarter, and 14 total points over the two middle stanzas.

While the Boomers rested their star players, the Spirit did the same as we got to see some up and coming talent show off their quality from both squads. Melbourne would eventually topple Bendigo by 32 points and stretch their winning streak to four matches.

Quite simply, Melbourne blew Bendigo out of the water following the opening quarter and maintained a substantially high shooting percentage, converting on 41 per cent of its attempts (33/80), whereas the Spirit managed a meek 27 per cent on the night. Additionally, coming out superior on the boards with a plus-24, the Boomers destroyed their counterparts on the glass.

George would only add two more points to her 15 in total, while Penina Davidson made the most of her increased court time with 15 points of her own in almost 16 minutes of game time. Magbegor would finish with a humble 12 points and 10 rebounds, while Izzy Wright (nine points and five rebounds) and Kalani Purcell (nine points and three rebounds) were the team’s next highest contributors.

In a quiet night across the board for the Spirit, not one individual would compile more than eight points by the final buzzer, as Ernst earned her team-high eighth point before half-time and gathered seven rebounds in the process. Demi Skinner rounded out her afternoon with seven points, meanwhile 17-year-old rising star Piper Dunlop tallied a season-best seven points and three rebounds.

Both sides make their returns to the court later today as all eight teams are scheduled to play in Sunday’s Round 4 action. Bendigo will open up proceedings against the Sydney Uni Flames, where the Spirit have only a couple more chances to get into the winner’s column before the season’s end. The Boomers have their work cut out for them when they size up the Southside Flyers, who did not play a particularly good brand of basketball in their last meeting – a memory they will look to rectify this time around. More importantly it will set the tone for both teams with finals play just around the corner.

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