Kerryn Harrington is enjoying her best WNBL season as the Bendigo Spirit push for a fourth consecutive finals berth. Picture: GLEN DANIELSBENDIGO Bank Spirit guard Kerryn Harrington believesa tough start to the season will hold the team in good stead as it pushes for a WNBL finals berth.
The Spirit (11-7) take on the Sydney Uni Flames (12-6) at Bendigo Stadium tonight.
It’s a chance for the Spirit to move into the four and level their series with the Sydneysiders, after the Flames won their pre-Christmas contest in Bendigo.
With six games remaining the battle for four finals spots has come down to six teams, with only one win separating the fifth-placed Spirit and top-of-the-ladder Perth Lynx (12-6).
The South East Queensland Stars, under coach Shane Heal, are in sixth position with a 9-8 record, on the back of three victories in their last four games.
Harrington, who slotted in to the starting line-up early in the season, has been a major factor in the Spirit’s push for a fourth straight finals appearance, averaging6.7 points and two assists per game and executing 17 steals.
The former Australia under 19 representative has also played a crucial role on defence and will again be handed a huge assignment on the Flames’ Katie-Rae Ebzery (17.4 points per game, 4.5 assists per game) and Tahlia Tupaea (14.8ppg and 2.9apg).
After a few seasons with rival club the Adelaide Lightning, Harrington is glad to be back in Bendigo and positively contributing to the team.
“I was very unsure at the beginning of the season where I would fit into the group that had achieved so much success in the past few seasons and with a new coaching group coming in,” she said.
“I just focused on what I could add to the group and tried to absorb so much of what the girls already had in place.
“As each game has come and gone I have felt more and more comfortable in the role that Simon (Pritchard) and the coaching staff want me to play.
“We had such a tough start to the season but thankfully we pulled through with a number of tough road wins that have really put us in a great position to make a run at the finals.”
Harrington believes she has thrived in the competitive training environment installed by the Spirit’s first year coach, the benefits of which she hopes will become evident tonight against the Flames.
“The season is seriously about to heat up,” she said.
“Any win can shoot you to the top of the ladder and a loss can jeopardise your finals aspirations.
“Expect a fast, physical game on Friday night between two very high quality teams headed for the finals!”
The Spirit can ill-afford to fall behind early as they have done on occasion this season.
They trailed the Melbourne Boomers by as much as 18 points in their last game on January 9, before rallying to win by seven points.
Gabe Richards and Kelly Wilson were the standouts with 32 points and 11 assists respectively.
The Spirit found themselves down by eight points at three quarter time in their earlier season contest the Flames before losing by three.
It’s a scenario coach Pritchard will be eager to avoid.
League MVP candidate Kelsey Griffin was the Spirit’s best in that contest with 24 points and 12 rebounds.
In other games of consequence for the Spirit this weekend, the fourth placed Dandenong Rangers (11-6) host Adelaide tonight before an all-Melbourne Australia Day eve clash against the Boomers, Perth host Adelaide on Sunday and Townsville take on the Canberra Capitals on Sunday.
Tonight’s game tips off at 7.30pm.
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