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Spirit is strong, and so is the body


BENDIGO made it back-to-back WNBL Championships today with a sensational 94-83 Grand Final victory over a gallant Townsville at Bendigo Stadium.

Withy Kelsey Griffin en route to claiming the historic first Rachael Sporn Medal as Grand Final MVP, Bendigo produced a blistering start and an equally sizzling finish over the Fire, the third quarter by both teams one for the time capsule.

Leading 70-69 with a period to play, the regular season and reigning champs started with a 9-0 run to take a 10-point lead and keep Townsville chasing for the duration.

The Spirit only lost twice all season - both times to Townsville - and ensured that if it was veteran guard Kristi Harrower's final game, it was an appropriate swansong for the quadruple Olympian.

Three quick baskets to centre Gabrielle Richards and a long three-pointer to Kelly Wilson gave Bendigo the 10-point last quarter buffer which the Fire reduced but never reined in.

Roared on by another sell-out crowd, Bendigo sped to an early 23-10 lead, Griffin unstoppable for 14 points.

Last year's Grand Final MVP claimed the inaugural Sporn Medal with 28 points and 15 rebounds.

Superstar Harrower, 39, and probably playing her final game if father and coach Bernie's emotional post-game mention was anything to go by, finished with 22 points and a Grand Final-high nine assists.

The Fire, runners-up last year to Bendigo, fought back to be within five at halftime, 41-46.

With triple league MVP Suzy Batkovic and Mia Newley offensive forces, Townsville was inspired and hit the front in the third quarter.

Batkovic's steal and basket, and pull-up jumpshot in transition, plus a long jumper from Kayla Standish, swung the momentum to the Fire.

The third quarter was just breath-taking in its brilliance from both teams.

Batkovic led the Fire with 21 points, nine rebounds, three steals and a block, captain Rachael McCully, in her 300th game, also providing great leadership.

Post-game, Kristi Harrower appeared to be sending her into retirement - just as she endeavoured with Jess Foley last year - wishing McCully all the best "in her decision".

But McCully's remark of "third time lucky" suggests Townsville will be back to again challenge Bendigo's unwavering mastery of the WNBL.

Mar 9

Content, unless otherwise indicated, is © copyright Boti Nagy.