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Wings clamp down on defense to beat Mercury, 69-54

ARLINGTON, TX – JUNE 15: Kayla Thornton #6 of the Dallas Wings high fives her teammates during the game against the Atlanta Dream on June 15, 2019 at College Park Center in Arlington, Texas. Photo by Tim Heitman/NBAE via Getty Images.

Arlington, Texas – The Dallas Wings used stifling defense to shut down the Phoenix Mercury Thursday, 69-54, and hold them to a season-low in scoring.

The league’s top scorer, Phoenix guard DeWanna Bonner, was limited to nine points as Kayla Thornton had 18 points and 11 rebounds for Dallas.

Coach Brian Agler said he was proud of his team’s defensive effort, and of Thornton, in particular.

“Kayla Thornton is turning into one of the better two-way players in the league,” he said. “She has embraced the defensive-stopper mentality, she rebounds the ball and now she is finding ways to put points on the board for us. When you play hard and compete, good things happen to you.”

The Mercury shot 24.6 percent from the field, hitting 15-61 shots, but were able to stay within striking distance by getting to the free throw line and making 18 of 21 attempts. Center Brittney Griner came into the contest averaging 17.7 points per game, but was limited to 11 points and five rebounds. Thornton gave credit to her teammates.

“It was a team effort tonight and I applaud them. We executed our defensive plan, in some areas we didn’t execute, but overall, I think we did a great job,” Thornton said. “We still have some learning to do on the offensive side, but other than that my teammates did a great job.”

The Mercury and the Wings are now 2-5, but trending in opposite direction,s with Phoenix now losing their third game in a row. Mercury coach Sandy Brondello said her team had not been shooting the ball very well, but keeping the Wings under 70 points was a good defensive effort. She said Dallas had a lot of aggressiveness and hit the offensive boards.

“We kept them under 40 percent shooting, but we couldn’t score. But you know, they made the big plays when they needed it,” Brondello said. “We just gotta make sure we’re staying together because we’ve got to persevere. This will build character and hopefully down the home stretch, it’ll help us.”

The Wings were moved the ball to get looks inside recording 30 points in the paint, but were 5-22 from behind the arc. Theresa Plaisance recorded her second career double-double, putting up 12 points and pulling down 11 rebounds. Allisha Gray, Kaela Davis and Arike Ogunbowale each added nine points.

Dallas turned the ball over 18 times for 14 points. There were stretches where they were out of sync on offense, and the Phoenix was able to rally in the fourth quarter to cut the lead down to one 53-52 at the 7:40 mark. But it was as close as the visitors would come, as the Wings then went on a 12-0 run to pad their lead for good.

Leilani Mitchell came off the bench to lead the Mercury, with 12 points.

The Mercury head back home to host the Lost Angeles Sparks on Sunday. Dallas gets a practice then head to Las Vegas to face off against the 4-4 Aces. The Wings have not won a game on the road this season.

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