SEATTLE, WA -- One bad pass, and Kelsey Plum’s team is Texas toast.
That was just moments before this year’s first overall pick landed a jumper with 0.8 seconds remaining. A three-pointer to tie the game, 79-79 -- or so it seemed.
But as luck would have it, the San Antonio Stars were only awarded two points for the basket after reviewing the play: Plum’s toe was on the three-point line. The Seattle Storm escaped with another fourth quarter victory, 79-78.
“There wasn’t a play call. It was just get down there and get a good look,” explained Plum. “I got a pretty good look, tried to shoot a three, but it was a two.”
Hiccups in the final minutes cost the Stars a win. Their finishing games have looked somewhat promising, following their last four wins in five games. Even though playoff hopes have been crushed for San Antonio once again this season, the team’s morale and chemistry have changed drastically since the start of the season. Despite its record, the Stars have continued to fight every game -- like Friday evening.
“I’m thinking she hit a three, honestly. I’m thinking that’s a big time shot, especially for a rookie,” said San Antonio’s Kayla McBride. “Her foot was on the line. We did everything we could. We had a shot. That’s really all you can talk about. I think our team fought to the end. I was just really proud of how our team fought.”
Although San Antonio loss, the Stars were dictating early in the game and had spiraled Seattle into their trap, leading the Stars by 11 at halftime.
However, with plenty of time remaining, the Storm thundered back.
“I thought we struggled offensively throughout the game, and then I think we turned them over a couple times, got a couple easy baskets in the fourth quarter and hit a couple three’s,” explained Seattle’s Interim Head Coach Gary Kloppenberg. “It seemed like it ignited us down the stretch. And I felt just a great comeback win.”
Friday’s game was a Husky homecoming for Plum as University of Washington fans filled KeyArena to not only cheer on the home team, but a familiar face that put its university on the map. Although Plum hit a huge shot, her bad pass down the stretch would come back to haunt her team. The turnover gave Seattle life, igniting momentum to favor a brewing storm.
That one stumble was only one of San Antonio’s 16 turnovers, Seattle had just eight.
“One thing that hurt us is turnovers, we had 16 turnovers,” explained San Antonio Head Coach Vickie Johnson. “We can’t win like that. Giving up 40 in the paint, can’t win like that either.”
A final quarter miscue allowed Alysha Clark to race the ball down court, hand it off to Breanna Stewart, who nailed a clean three-pointer. Sue Bird’s clutch steal and back-to-back threes from Bird and Stewart helped seal the deal before Clark headed to the line and took the lead for good.
“It was huge because at a point we were trading baskets, and we needed to get some stops to obviously win the game,” said Stewart. “Whether we were switching or rotating, each player had one another’s back.”
San Antonio did not go down quietly with a handful of Stars scoring at least 10 points. McBride eclipsed the 1,500-point mark for her career as she finished with 18 points. Dearica Hamby came off the bench to match her career-high scoring 19 points with 10 rebounds, while Plum also put up double-digits with 15.
Even with Isabelle Harrison’s 14, the young team was a few too many turnovers and not enough defensive stops short of the perfect homecoming for Plum.
But, a squad closing in on the last playoff spot was not a team San Antonio could toy with. A fourth quarter fail in the slightest against a lineup who just held the best team in the league to an all-time scoring low two nights ago, was no recipe for victory.
The Storm took advantage of the Star’s slippery handling of the ball in the final countdown. With a huge shake-up of a new head coach, Seattle has hope again. Holding onto the seventh spot in playoffs, the Storm will prey on opposing team’s mistakes to push them through to a deep playoff run.
But San Antonio won’t let fans forget where they’re headed next.
“We’re a very young team,” said Johnson. “Most people, especially media, they don’t give credit to this league. They predict, because you’re so good in college, you should be as good in the WNBA. It doesn’t work like that. This is the best league in the world.”
San Antonio heads down to Los Angeles on Aug. 22 at 7:30 pm PST against the Sparks. Seattle travels to Chicago to face the Sky on Aug. 20 at 5 pm CDT.