Hometown heroines Candace Parker and Allie Quigley led the way and Sky lifer Courtney Vandersloot, who nearly had her second playoff triple-double, made the clutch basket to seal the Chicago Sky's 80-74 championship-clinching victory over the Phoenix Mercury on Sunday afternoon at a sold out Wintrust Arena.
Quigley (26 points on 5-of-10 shooting from distance) hit three triples in the first half of the fourth, including two that cut Chicago’s deficit to five. Then came a 9-0 Sky run that gave Chicago a four-point lead. During that run, Parker (16 points, 13 rebounds, five assists, four steals) made a three to tie the game and Stefanie Dolson made a lay in to give the Sky the lead. Phoenix’s Diana Taurasi made 2-of-3 free throws after being fouled on a trey attempt with 42.3 seconds to go, which cut Phoenix’s deficit to just two. But Vandersloot (10 points, nine rebounds, 15 assists, one turnover) then made the basket of the game: a high-arching shot from around the middle of the key after cutting inside.
Diggins-Smith then missed inside, Vandersloot made two free throws, Griner missed a three and Parker got the rebound and started dribbling up the court. She had made it to about half court when the clock ran out.
“It’s crazy,” Parker said. “Like I had flashbacks from high school when I first realized we won the state championship, and it was kind of like similar, I don’t know.
It was amazing to just hug my dad and my mom and my family. It was just an amazing feeling to be from here and see so many people in the stands that have been supporting you since you started. I sent Allie a picture this morning of us when we were in high school, and it was like, man, not bad for two suburban kids, right, playing in the WNBA Finals together?
So I think it’s just a moment where you just have to really take it in.”
It was a fitting ending to a season that saw Parker, who grew up in Naperville, Ill., debut with her hometown team after signing on Feb. 1. The Sky hoped they could win a championship with Parker and now they have done so on their first try. And Quigley, from Joliet, Ill., led the team in scoring in the final game. And Vandersloot, who is Quigley’s wife and has played with her through the ups and downs of nine seasons together in Chicago, starred as well.
“I think we just together made a commitment to this team and to this franchise because we did get a taste early what it felt like to be in the Finals, and we got our asses kicked, but we did get that taste,” Vandersloot said, referring to the 2014 Finals she went to with Quigley. She was joined by Quigley, Parker and Kahleah Copper at the postgame press conference. “We knew if we got the right people, exhibit A (Parker) and B (Copper), that we could be in this moment, and it would be special here. We didn’t want to go seeking that. We didn’t want to go seeking this feeling. We wanted to do it here, and we just knew that we had what it takes. We were just — we just needed a few more pieces and people to believe, and that’s exactly what we got. We were able to put it together at the right time, and it’s just a really special moment for us two individually but also as a franchise.”
Courtney Vandersloot and Allie Quigley now have two rings: a WNBA championship ring and a wedding ring ❤️ pic.twitter.com/bGDBd7KhWa— SB Nation (@SBNation) October 17, 2021
“The first time I met with Sloot when getting the (Sky head coaching) job, we met in a cafe, and I was like, we’re going to get a championship,” James Wade said. “Don’t worry, we’re going to get a championship. So we went into detail of how we were going to do it.
I was just trying to get her to believe. I didn’t know how we were going to do it, but I was just trying to get her to believe, and I knew that was the first step.”
Copper, who led the Sky in scoring in their Game 1 and Game 3 wins, was named Finals MVP after scoring 10 points in the deciding Game 4.
This is the Sky’s first WNBA championship.
The Sky squandered an opportunity to cut it to four or five at the end of the third when Vandersloot threw a pass too strong to Parker in the backcourt and Skylar Diggins-Smith picked it up and made a floater with 0.1 seconds left to put the Mercury up nine entering the fourth. That came after two Taurasi free throws, which ended a 9-0 Chicago run that began with a 7-0 Parker run.
A ridiculous Brittney Griner 3-point play gave the Mercury a seven-point lead entering the third and they doubled the lead to 14 with 3:16 to go in the frame. However, Parker answered with a three that cut it to 11. She then poked the ball away from Diggins-Smith to Vandersloot, which led to an assist from Vandersloot to Parker in transition, cutting it to nine. Two free throws from Parker cut it to seven after that.
Until two seconds remaining before halftime, the largest lead for either side in the second quarter was Phoenix by four, but Griner hit a difficult mid-range shot when she was heavily covered and made her free throw after being fouled.
The other highlight of the second frame was a pass from Vandersloot on the right wing to Copper cutting to the basket from the left wing in transition for a layup. That gave Chicago a two-point lead. The Sky also drew a third personal foul on Taurasi in the second, but failed to turn either of these positives into much momentum.
Phoenix came back from down 22-16 to take a 25-22 lead and led 28-25 after one. On the 9-0 run, Bria Hartley had four points and Griner converted on a 3-point play. Sophie Cunningham then hit a three at the buzzer to cancel out a Quigley three right before.
Chicago took the first big momentum swing on a 7-0 run that started with Parker free throws followed by a Parker steal and back-down layup. A technical was then called on Taurasi and Quigley made the free throw. Things were threatening to get out of hand for Phoenix in front of the Chicago crowd, but an Azurá Stevens layup was the last basket of the run because Diggins-Smith answered with a lay in.
Griner finished with 28 points and seven rebounds in defeat while Diggins-Smith had 16 points and eight assists.