Mercury win WNBA championship

Candice Dupree and Diana Taurasi led a shorthanded Mercury to the ultimate glory

Jeremy Beren, Sports Editor

The Phoenix Mercury rose to the occasion once again, and firmly re-assumed their spot among the WNBA elite.

The Mercury won their third WNBA championship on Friday night, as the team beat the Chicago Sky 87-82 to complete a three-game sweep. They won a back-and-forth game on the road and won even without a key cog in their so-called “Big Three.”

The Mercury were without Brittney Griner for Game Three. The 6-foot 8-inch center suffered an eye injury early in Game Two and was thus unavailable for coach Sandy Brondello. With Griner out, the Sky found it easier to play in the post rather than launch long-range shots. Sky center Sylvia Fowles, for example, matched her Game Two point total (four) in the first four minutes of the game. Fowles also scored six of the Sky’s first eight points and 14 overall in the first half.

Griner’s replacement, Ewelina Kobryn, also got off to a nice start, as she scored the Mercury’s first four points. But even with Kobryn’s adequate performance, the Mercury badly missed Griner. Sky star Elena Delle Donne, who played with a bad back, converted consecutive three-point plays late in the first quarter. She also put the Sky ahead 31-30 with six minutes left in the first half.

The Mercury fought back, however. Some smooth ball movements opened the door for Candice Dupree to take over. She scored a team-high 14 points in the first half and converted on seven of her 10 shots in the first 20 minutes. After nine first-half lead changes, the Mercury took a 45-43 halftime lead, and put themselves 20 minutes from a championship.

Dupree and the Mercury started off well in the third quarter. With 3:36 to go in the quarter, the Sky trailed 55-50. But then, Allie Quigley emerged to energize the building. Quigley hit a three-pointer to pull the Sky within two, and after Delle Donne completed two free throws to give the Sky the lead, she drove and made a lay-up. That lay-up was enough to hand the Sky their largest lead in the series at four points. The Mercury trailed 63-61 after three quarters.

After a quiet 30 minutes, Diana Taurasi started the fourth quarter on a tear. Taurasi scored eight consecutive points, six from three-pointers, to turn a 67-67 tie into a 75-70 Mercury advantage. The Sky would not be deterred, however, as they came within one point with 2:42 to go.

After a commercial break, Taurasi hit a difficult long-range two-pointer and converted the ensuing free throw for an 80-76 lead. But that didn’t salt the game away, either; Quigley’s 18th and 19th points eventually tied the game with 29.6 seconds to go.

Out of another timeout, Taurasi drained a tough shot from the right side and drew a foul in the process. That put the Mercury up 85-82. Delle Donne missed a three-point attempt on the next possession, and two free throws from veteran Penny Taylor sealed the deal. Dupree and Taurasi led all scorers with 24 points, and the Mercury will bring another WNBA title home to Phoenix.

After two sizable victories in Phoenix, the Mercury completed their record-setting season with a hard-earned road win. Taurasi’s brilliant fourth quarter was the difference in a close game. Coach Brondello’s team had to dig deep to get to the fourth quarter in one piece without Griner, but they did just that and accomplished their goal of a third WNBA championship. And a deserved championship, at that.