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Late charge falls short as Mercury hold off Storm

Sami Whitcomb drives past Sophia Cunningham. Neil Enns/Storm photos.
Sami Whitcomb drives past Sophia Cunningham. Neil Enns/Storm photos.
Sami Whitcomb drives past Sophia Cunningham. Neil Enns/Storm photos.

With just over a second to play, all eyes were on Jordin Canada.

The second-year guard stepped to the line for three shots, fouled behind the arc on Seattle’s final offensive possession on Sunday against Phoenix.

But the 70 percent free-throw shooter would have to hit all three to force overtime.

“We had a chance to tie it up, but basketball is a funny game,” said Storm center Mercedes Russell. “[You] can’t make every shot, can’t make every free throw, can’t make every lay up.”

And so it went.

Canada missed the first, make the second, and the Mercury grabbed the rebound on the third to seal a 69-67 victory, snapping Seattle’s six-game home winning streak to start the season.

DeWanna Bonner and Britney Griner both finished with 20 points to lead all scorers in Phoenix’s (5-5) third straight win, while Sami Whitcomb had a team-high 13 as one of four Storm (8-6) players in double figures. Russell and Alysha Clark both had 12 points, while Natasha Howard was one point and two rebounds shy of a double-double.

While Seattle held the Mercury to just under 40 percent from the field, and came out ahead on the glass 37-29, Phoenix held a lead for most of the night — up by as many as 13 in the second quarter — and never trailed by more than one possession.

“We didn’t start well,” said Storm head coach Dan Hughes. “And in a game that that’s competitive … you want to get out of the gate and not have to necessarily play catch up.”

Early deficit aside, a late 7-0 run by Seattle in the closing minutes of the second cut the gap to one at halftime, with the Storm taking its first lead of the game early in the third.

As the teams traded the lead into the fourth, Seattle still held a one-point edge with just over five minutes to play. But Phoenix cashed in on its next four possessions, a Bonner 3-pointer with 3:08 left capping a 10-0 Mercury run.

However, Natasha Howard answered with a three of her own, followed by a three-point play by Russell. The second-year center then split a pair of free throws with 1:41 to go to cut the gap to two at 65-63.

Phoenix stretched the lead back to six on free throws, before a Whitcomb three again sliced the deficit in half for Seattle with just over 30 seconds in regulation. Phoenix head coach Sandy Brondello had warned her team to not to get complacent with a late lead.

“I told them not to relax because this is the Seattle Storm and they just play hard and they did,” she said. “Sami made an awesome shot.”

Opting to defend instead of foul with a seven-second difference between the game and shot clocks, the Storm had a chance to tie the game after a missed Sancho Lyttle three with 12 seconds left.

That possession ended with Canada at the line, thanks to a Briann January foul with 1.2 seconds to play. But with the first miss, the game was essentially over.

“It came down to the little things,” Russell said. We fought from beginning to end but there was just a few plays and we didn’t finish on the defensive end and that really hurt us.”

Seattle continues its six-game home stand on Wednesday afternoon against New York, while Phoenix returns home for a Friday tilt with the Liberty.

“We’re resilient,” Brondello said. “We’re persistent. Sometimes against Seattle you have to play ugly and you have to win ugly, but we competed when we needed to.”

Dribbles

  • Attendance: 8,002.
  • The season series between Seattle and Phoenix is now tied at a game apiece. Seattle won the first matchup on May 25 in Everett, 77-68. The two teams meet again in Phoenix on Sept. 3.
  • Sunday was Camille Little’s final regular season appearance in Seattle. The 13-year forward, who spent parts of seven seasons with the Storm, announced earlier this month she will retire at year’s end.
  • Grethe Cammermeyer was recognized as Seattle’s “Honorary Coach” on Sunday. Cammermeyer was discharged from the U.S. Army in 1992, after disclosing she was a lesbian, but was reinstated after winning a District Court ruling that found both her discharge and the ban on gays and lesbians in the military was unconstitutional.
  • Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan was in attendance, and recognized on the video board during a third quarter break.