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Catch and Sloot: Vandersloot saves Chicago’s season

Chicago entered the game with their backs against the wall Sunday afternoon coming in down 0-2 in the series against Los Angeles. Courtney Vandersloot stepped up to avoid being eliminated by the Sparks.

Randy Belice - Getty Images

Rosemont, Ill – It felt like déjà vu again back here in the Windy City. Once again, the Chicago Sky entered the game as the underdogs with a plethora of fans believing the Sparks were going to sweep the Sky. However, Chicago’s starting point guard, Courtney Vandersloot once again brought her team to a “must win” victory, defeating the Los Angeles Sparks, 70-66.

Even if she almost gave her team and head coach a heart attack.

With seconds left in the fourth quarter, the game, in fact, wasn’t tied like Vandersloot thought. Instead, her team had a two-point lead. Leading the fast-break, Vandersloot looked over to Coach Chatman for the next play call, but instead of listening to her — who was screaming slow it down — she made a game-changing decision.

Vandersloot did the polar opposite of what most people would do — she shot the ball. Yes, instead of running the 15 seconds out of the game clock, Vandersloot pulled up for a shot at the elbow.

Time froze as Coach Chatman and last year’s MVP Elena Delle Donne faces turned into disbelief, that in that situation, she shot the ball with only a few seconds left and the lead on Chicago’s side.

“When she took the shot, I guess she saw it [shock] on my face,” Head Coach of the Chicago Sky Pokey Chatman said. “It was one of those things where it’s a time-score situation. She thought we were tied.

Luckily for the Sky, that shot extended the lead to a two possession game, as Vandersloot confidently knocked down the pull-up.

“I trust Courtney Vandersloot, that’s why I drafted her six years ago,” Coach Chatman said. “I tell her all the time; we are going to as far as you will take us, as far as being aggressive.”

And aggressive she was in the second half of the game.

Vandersloot turned out to be the unsung hero of the game, as she struggled to be aggressive early in the game. In fact, Vandersloot played five minutes in the first quarter and had almost all zeros across the entire boxscore, except for one shot attempt which resulted in two points for her.

Throughout the game, Vandersloot tried to get into her groove. However, it wasn’t until the fourth quarter when the six-year vet turned things up, and started dancing through the paint again, while gathering her groove back.

Vandersloot scored 11 of her 17 points in the fourth quarter alone and ended the game with five assists and was 4-4 from the line.

Her increase in aggression on offense made a huge difference for the Sky, and ultimately, that’s what brought home the much-needed victory for her team.

Her gameplan for the fourth quarter was simple: attack the basket. Once Nneka Ogwumike or Candace Parker would collapse Vandersloot in the paint, she created magic with her hands as she made perfect, precise passes, which led to assists to her teammates, as they seemed to appear out of thin air.

But it wasn’t just her normal drive and dish play that caught Chatman’s eye — it was also her shot selection in the fourth which was missing in the first 20 minutes of the game.

“I am always telling her to ‘Catch and Sloot’, instead of catch and shoot, and be aggressive,” Coach said on Vandersloot’s fourth quarter comeback. “She really changed the game. She allowed me to put (Jamierra) Falkner in the game. Now you have two point guards in. That really helped.”

For Vandersloot, coming into the game she knew Chicago had more to offer after falling short in the first two games with Los Angeles, and confidence was the principal ingredient to a change in the final result.

"We were confident going into this game because they [LA] hadn’t seen our best yet,” Vandersloot said. “If they saw our best, then we were going to put ourselves in a good position to win games.”

Well, the Sky are now in a good position to keep fighting for a spot in the WNBA’s Finals. Game four is back in the Windy City on Tuesday. Tip-off is at 8 pm ET.