Red-hot Fever cool Storm in second-half en route to 93-81 win

Sunday’s second quarter was arguably Seattle’s best of the season.

The Storm’s 32 points was the most it had notched in a 10-minute period this year, as Seattle turned a 7-point deficit to a 6-point advantage by halftime while shooting 6-for-8 from 3-point range.

The other three quarters weren’t so kind.

Despite another double-double from Breanna Stewart (32 points, 11 rebounds), and 10 points off the bench from Ramu Tokashiki, it took Indiana just over five minutes into the third to take a lead it would hold the remainder of the night in an eventual 93-82 victory over the Storm at Key Arena.

Six players finished in double figures for Indiana (9-11), led by Shenise Johnson’s 18 points off the bench (a season-high), and 15 from Tamika Catchings in her final appearance in Seattle.

“I really liked our energy, especially in the second half,” Catchings said. “We didn’t really have a good second quarter, but we came out after halftime and really executed offensively and defensively – moving the ball, knocking down shots and our posts were battling down low. I thought we did a much better job locking up on (Stewart) and making other people try to score (in the second half).”

Storm coach Jenny Boucek also had praise for the visitors.

“They played really, really well tonight,” she said. “They don’t usually shoot the ball like that, but when they do, they’re really tough.”

But “don’t usually” is an understatement. The Fever finished the night at 58.1 percent from the field, the second-best shooting performance in franchise history, buoyed by a lights out second half.

The Fever led by as many as 10 in the first quarter, before Seattle (7-13) closed the gap, and took a 10-point lead of its own in the waning moments of the half.

“Just remember the feeling that we had,” Stewart said of what she hopes the team takes away from that 10-minute stretch, “and moving the ball, finding the open person, just really having fun, enjoying the game.”

Also stepping up in the first-half was fellow UConn product Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, who finished with eight points, all in the first-half. But she deflected the credit to her one-time college teammate.

“I think having Stewie on our team, she sucks in so much defense, and she needs so much attention, that if you can just linger and find  an opening, she does a good job of finding us,” Mosqueda-Lewis said.

While the Storm were firing on all cylinders for most of the quarter, Johnson cut the Indiana deficit to six with a four-point play at the buzzer.

Out of the break, it didn’t take long for the Fever to close the gap entirely, with Johnson and Tiffany Mitchell combining for 12, and Erica Wheeler adding five points in the third quarter to give Indiana a three-point edge.

The hot shooting continued into the fourth, with the Fever going 10-for-13 from the field (4-for-5 from 3-point range) to pull away late. Indiana went 20-for-29 from the field (69 percent) over the final 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, Boucek said her team simply “ran out of gas,” in the second half.

“I don’t like to make excuses, but there are legitimate reasons,” she said. “We had four games in six nights in four cities. Just came back from the East Coast, had a six-hour delay last night, didn’t get in until 10 o’clock or so, and it’s tough. A tough schedule right now.”

Indiana won two of three games on their West Coast road trip, boosting them from a recent series of losses.

“This is kind of crunch time for us and it would’ve been big for the morale of the team if we’d have gone 0-for-3,” Catchings said. “Starting with that fourth quarter in L.A. — that really sparked us going into Phoenix to win that game and sparked us coming into here. We’ve always been known for our defensive tenacity and when we play defense the way that we know how to play, we’re a really, really good team, but we have to do that consistently.”

Seattle is back at Key Arena on Friday night to take on the Mystics at 7 p.m. Lauren Jackson will be on hand as the team retires her No. 15 jersey in a post-game ceremony.

Dribbles:

  • Seattle only brought three players off the bench on Sunday, as Abby Bishop, Jenna O’Hea, Krystal Thomas, and Monica Wright all sat. It was the third straight DNP for Wright and Bishop, and second straight for O’Hea.
  • Natalie Achonwa, Marissa Coleman, and Jeanette Pohlen all did not play for the Fever.
  • The Storm were outscored by seven in the first, nine in the third, and eighth in the fourth, but outpaced the Fever by 13 in the second.
  • Points in the Paint: Storm 28, Fever 24
  • 2nd Chance Points: Fever 15, Storm 8
  • Fast Break Points: Fever 2, Storm 0
  • Attendance: 5,975

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