Chicago – For two teams that weren’t necessarily supposed to be there, the Chicago Sky and the Phoenix Mercury put on a heck of a show Sunday in Game 4 of the WNBA Finals.
In the end, however, it was the hometown Sky with the momentous fourth-quarter push that propelled them to their first-ever WNBA Championship, 80-74. One of the team’s Chicago natives, Allie Quigley, led the way with 26 points, and the other – Candace Parker – scored 16 points and grabbed 13 rebounds.
“We did this for each other,” Quigley said. “Kind of like a breaking point probably a month ago, and I feel like we all looked at each other and we said, what are we going to play for. And Candace the first thing she said she was going to play for me. It was just so inspiring that she wanted me to win a championship so bad, and I just – it just made me want to play harder.”
“And everybody went around and said who they were playing for. In the end we all wanted to play for each other, and that’s what you saw tonight in this whole playoff experience.”
It was an ending that had been projected by some in preseason, when Parker signed as a free agent after being with the Los Angeles Sparks for 13 years. But a seven-game losing streak early on, and a .500 record at the end of the regular season, gave them a sixth seed in the playoffs. Phoenix, which had its own ups and downs, was seeded fifth.
Both teams pulled off upsets in the first two playoff rounds, and the Finals series proved electric, with the Sky pulling out the first win, the Mercury the second, and Chicago routing their opponents by 36 points Friday night.
Game 4 was physical and tight until the fourth quarter, when Phoenix ran out to a 14-point lead. The series looked like a guarantee to return to the desert for a fifth matchup, but then the Sky began chipping away at the lead. A Brittney Griner jumper with 4:42 to go gave the Mercury a seven-point lead, but they then hit a wall and only scored two points the rest of the way, while Chicago went on a run.
Courtney Vandersloot had 10 points and 15 rebounds for the Sky, while Kahleah Copper, who was named Finals MVP, scored 10 points. Brittney Griner led Phoenix with 28 points, while Diana Taurasi and Skylar Diggins-Smith each had 16.
Chicago coach James Wade said his team pushed through their slump by staying together and feeing off the energy of a sold out Wintrust Arena.
“I guess it was a microcosm of our season where you go down, you go down, and you keep pushing, all right,” Wade said. “Crowd was quiet but they were in it, and they were trying to give us energy, trying to give us energy, and any little thing we did they gave us more energy and gave us more energy, and we fed off of it, but we stayed together.”
It was Parker’s second title win but one of many tight Finals and playoff games in her career. As the final buzzer sounded, she ran towards the sidelines and embraced her family, including 12-year-old daughter Lailaa. Parker then hugged all of her teammates in an emotional scene.
“I think the heartbreaks hurt, but this one is so sweet,” Parker said. “Like to do it with this group, I love this group, I love this team, and to do it here at home, it’s just like, all of those heartbreaks, it was just supposed to be today.”
Mercury coach Sandy Brondello said it was Quigley’s scoring barrage during the Sky’s last quarter run that made the difference in the game.
“Allie made some really big shots for them, got them back into the game,” Brondello said. “We left her open, and she made them. Just had some little breakdowns at the wrong time, but we had some really good looks down the other end that we just missed. So it was just makes and misses near the end, but I think that definitely changed momentum.”
The Phoenix players declined to address reporters after the game.