Sky’s the limit: Chicago clinches playoff spot with win

Uncasville, Conn.– The Sky can breathe a sigh of relief, as their 96-86 victory over the Connecticut Sun Sunday secured their spot in the 2016 WNBA playoffs.

But with league MVP Elena Delle Donne and Tamera Young sitting out for the second consecutive game with injuries, Chicago’s near future is uncertain.

Cappie Pondexter led the winners, and all scorers, with a season-high 24 points, and passed Lisa Leslie to become fifth on the league’s all-time scoring list. Courtney Vandersloot finished with 16 points and seven rebounds, while Allie Quigley provided the spark off the Sky bench, adding 18 points on 7-10 shooting.

The visitors took control of the game in the third quarter, following a first half that saw them down four points at the break. They were able to build a ten-point lead in third, and kept a comfortable cushion until the last 26 seconds of the game, when Connecticut forward Alyssa Thomas drained a three-point basket that allowed them to pull to within five points. The Sky sealed the deal at the free throw line with two Pondexter free throws.

Pondexter called the win “huge.”

“We had lost the last two games so we were adjusting to having Elena and T out, so it was more mental than anything,” Pondexter said. “I think the last game at Indiana gave us we needed in terms of what we needed to win a game without them. We played as a team today, our intensity level was very high and we were able to win.”

Sky coach Pokey Chatman knew being shorthanded would have an effect on her rotation, and at halftime she made sure her team knew that the second half needed to be different if they were going to come out on top.

“I told them if we don’t rebound better, we were going to lose,” Chatman said. “Not many teams can lose 22 points from Elena Delle Donne and score 43 points in a half. On a scale of one to ten we were a five, and we needed to ratchet it up a couple of levels. It was nice to have a team win with everyone contributing.”

Forward Chiney Ogwumike lead the Sun’s effort with 20 points and 10 rebounds, and Thomas added 18 points and nine boards. Connecticut’s hopes for a playoff berth are fading.

“At this point the playoffs are a far stretch,” Thomas said. “Now it is just about continuing to improve as a team and grinding out these last three games.”

The Sky host the league-leading Minnesota Lynx Tuesday.