It was like a Disney movie moment.
A determined player dreamed of a moment to lead her team to victory. This Disney star was Maya Moore, and it was a happy ending for the Minnesota Lynx.
"It was one of those instances where you just keep playing until the last horn," said Moore. "That's what I've been doing all year."
A miraculous game came down to the final seconds for the win, and the chance to advance to the finals.
The suspenseful music played. The camera spanned, bringing the favorite player, Moore, with fire in her eyes ready for her wonderful chance of victory. With 38.7 seconds left, Moore drew a foul that eliminated the threat, Phoenix's DeWanna Bonner.
The "villain," or in this case, the defending champions, watched excruciatingly from the bench. Moore's eyes were filled with hope and confidence. Moore stood at the foul line, thankful it was not her sixth foul. With a deep breath, she made the two baskets to tie at 71.
Then, with 5.4 seconds left, the camera went into slow-motion. Moore noticed the key target standing 6'8'', Brittney Griner. It was like she had telepathic memory and could vision the winning shot. Heroically, she reached in front of Griner and intercepted the ball on the inbound play. Getting balanced, she dribbled down the court and was fouled with 1.5 seconds left of the game.
She approached the charity stripe with confidence on her mind. Then, she hears cheering from her team. Swish. The winning bucket sunk and the scoreboard lit the points, 72-71.
"I got a deflection and just made some hustle plays to finish the game," said Moore. "Most of the time, I'm not aware of what I'm doing. Not in the sense that I don't know what's going on, I'm just locked into the moment."
Moore showed her skills in a career playoff-high of 40 points, with eight rebounds, four assists and three steals. She hit a notable 13 of 39 attempts, and missed only two of her 12 free throw points. One point was intelligently intentional. The final free throw she missed in order to halt a response from the Mercury.
In most stories, the hero is faced with challenges. Moore's challenge was her personal fouls and the team's offensive game strategy.
"Maya, early, was really good and as the game went on things were much more challenging. She was a tired boxer, not being active as a cutter, and she was just spent," said head coach Cheryl Reeve.
"We had a challenging time finding offense because Phoenix is an absolute terrific team. That's how they won most of their games this year, and they actually hung their head in that area. It was hard for us to figure out how to get it done today."
Realizing her weaknesses, Moore relentlessly came out the second half with six of the 11 field goals. Then, the team attacked the boards, outrebounding the Mercury 36 to 26.
"You see the hustle plays on the glass, deflections, jump balls, and obviously those decide the balance of the game, and that was huge," said Reeve.
Minnesota's Seimone Augustus, who had eight points in the win, thought the team's execution gave good pressure on the Mercury.
"We happen to have some of the best rebounders in the league. We attack the boards; it's worked to our advantage, and it definitely helps with our execution," said Augustus. "They knew it was win or go home, so they knew the desperation."
It is "Moore" WNBA trips for the Lynx. This is their fourth trip to the WNBA finals in five seasons, greatly rewarded after defeating defending champions.
"Everybody had their moment today and made it easier on me," said Moore. "I credit everyone whether they're making a screen or just playing great basketball."
The hard work. The challenging game-play. The opportunities to lead. The hero's dream came true, although she was not wearing a cape. She was representing the Lynx as number 23. It was their moment of victory.
"Maya just hung in there with five seconds to go with just a huge deflection. She's just very hard to play against, and that was just money. That's what we talk about all the time; you never know what is going to win the game," said Reeve. "Our team believes in that."