Seattle’s youth movement on full display in win over Wings

Jewell Loyd drives in Aerial Powers in the fourth quarter of Wednesday's game. Photo by Neil Enns/Storm Photos.
Jewell Loyd drives in Aerial Powers in the fourth quarter of Wednesday’s game. Photo by Neil Enns/Storm Photos.

In the fourth quarter of Wednesday night’s game against Dallas, Storm head coach Jenny Boucek stepped back for a moment, with her team in the midst of what would prove to be game-defining run.

“I looked up, and we were really making our push and we had Jewell, Stewie, and Tok on the floor for a huge stretch of that game,” she said. “That’s our youth. That’s three very young players that are playing in crunch time in a playoff-caliber game.”

The trio combined for 19 of Seattle’s 24 fourth-quarter points — with Loyd scoring 11 of her game-high 23 — as the Storm overcame a lackluster third quarter in a 78-66 win over the Wings at KeyArena. With the win, Seattle (11-16) regained the eighth and final playoff spot in the league, a half-game ahead of the Mystics.

Stewart had 17 points and 12 rebounds for her ninth double-double of the year, while Sue Bird and Crystal Langhorne finished with 13 and 12 points respectively. Alysha Clark was the lone starter not in double figures, just shy of the mark with 9. Dallas (9-19) was led by 19 points from Plenette Pierson.

While the teams traded baskets early, the Storm used an 18-6 run over the final seven minutes of the first quarter to take a 13-point lead. By halftime, the Wings were only able to shave two points off the deficit, trailing by 11 after the second quarter.

Langhorne continued her post-break resurgence with eight points, four assists, and three rebounds in the first 20 minutes, while Stewart and Loyd were already in double figures.

Dallas cut the deficit to three with a 10-2 run in the first five minutes of the third, and tied the game in the waning moments of the quarter, as they sought to end what is now a nine-game losing streak. That run was fueled by nine points from Pierson and seven from Powers.

The Wings then took their first lead of the night with a jumper from Pierson on their first fourth quarter possession.

The 24 seconds between that shot, and a lay-in on the other end by Tokashiki was the only time Dallas would hold the advantage on the night. Seattle outscored Dallas 24-12 in the final 10 minutes, while holding firm on defense, getting 10 stops in 11 possessions at one point in the quarter.

While she finished with just two points and two rebounds, Boucek had praise for the efforts of Tokashiki, who was also recognized pre-game for her Olympic performance on “Celebrate Japan” night.

“Her minutes were huge tonight, but it doesn’t even show up on the box score,” Boucek said. “She was all over the place defensively and was really a big part of us having that stretch where we were getting consecutive stops was her activity defensively.”

And while the team has struggled to holds leads at times, losing five games this season when tied or ahead at halftime, Loyd said they were locked in to finish out plays even after the third quarter comeback by Dallas.

“They went on a run and we just kept focused and kept talking to each other,” Loyd said. “That communication let us build confidence and finish it out.”

The two close losses to the Wings earlier in the season also lurked in the mind of Stewart.

“We wanted to make sure we showed them that we are a different team post-Olympic break,” she said.

Seattle, which has now won two of three out of the break, now heads on a four-game road trip, starting with a matchup against Chicago on Friday at 4:30 p.m. PT.

Dribbles:

  • Spotted: Seattle Mayor Ed Murray was on hand, as was Oregon State women’s basketball head coach Scott Rueck, while Rumi Utsugi of Seattle Reign FC participated in a post-game question and answer session with Tokashiki.
  • #TOKWATCH: On Celebrate Japan Night, the second-year forward finished with two points on 1-of-4 shooting, with two rebounds in 13 minutes.
  • Despite the victory, Dallas wins the season series against Seattle 2-1, beating the Storm 88-79 in Dallas on June 16, and 83-78 in Seattle on June 30.
  • Abby Bishop and Monica Wright did not play for Seattle, while Ruth Hamblin did not play for the Wings on Wednesday.
  • Points in the Paint: Storm 36, Wings 32
  • Second Chance Points: Storm 13, Wings 9
  • Fast Break Points: Storm 10, Wings 5
  • Attendance: 6,771
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