Sabrina Ionescu missed the first shot of her final round at the 2023 WNBA 3-point Contest Friday afternoon, but made the next 20 shots in front of an astounded Las Vegas crowd that included four-time contest champion Allie Quigley sporting a look of disbelief.
Ionescu needed to get in a groove quickly after that first miss because her money ball rack was the second rack (on the left wing). She was clutch as she nailed every shot on the money ball rack and then just kept on going, remaining red-hot as she moved on to locations that she is not as good from (the players choose where their money ball rack is placed).
Ionescu’s only other miss during the round came on the money ball shot on the right wing. She followed that miss with a perfect final rack and a big celebration after making her final money ball. She knew she had just done something incredible.
Her score of 37 marked a WNBA and NBA record for a single round of a 3-point contest. She easily defeated other finals participants Sami Whitcomb and Arike Ogunbowale to claim the 2023 3-point Contest title.
Sabrina Ionescu (@sabrina_i20) just set the all-time record for NBA or WNBA with a score of 37 PTS in the FINAL ROUND of the #Starry3PT Contest to be crowned the NEW 3-PT CHAMPION | @starrylemonlime pic.twitter.com/YcGy3fDfBq— WNBA (@WNBA) July 14, 2023
Ionescu won the Skills Challenge at last year’s All-Star Game.
In the first round on Friday, Whitcomb placed first with a score of 28. She made just two shots on her first rack before a perfect second rack. She then made her first shot from “Starry Range,” which is a shot from well behind the arc that is worth three points (regular shots are worth one and money balls are worth two). Then came her money ball rack (from straightaway), and she rebounded from missing her first two shots there by making the final three. She would make her second and final Starry ball before going 3-of-5 and 2-of-5 on her final two racks, respectively.
Ionescu went right before Whitcomb in the first round and notched a score of 26, good for second place. She made both her Starry balls and went 4-of-5 on two racks to overcome going just 2-of-5 on her money ball rack. Ogunbowale managed a score of 21 in the first round, coming in third place. She went 4-of-5 on her money ball rack, which was her second-to-last rack, but missed out on a higher score because she went 1-of-5 on her final rack (the make wasn’t the money ball).
DiJonai Carrington posted 18 points in the first round, while Kelsey Mitchell and Jackie Young rounded out the six competitors with 15 apiece.
Chelsea Gray owned the Skills Challenge, making five of her six baskets on the first try. Her one miss was on her first shot: the lane shot in the first round; she knocked it down on her second attempt. Her teammate on Team Aces, Kelsey Plum, was far from perfect with three misses on the corner three in the first round, one miss on the final field goal of the first round, one miss on the lane shot in the final and three misses on the corner three in the final. But Gray came right down after Plum’s final run and hit all her shots on the first tries to best Team Liberty’s 58 seconds.
It’s not surprising that Gray was so good in this competition. We saw in last year’s Finals how efficient she can be from mid-range and three.
In the Liberty’s final round run, Courtney Vandersloot made her first lane shot and first final field goal, but missed all three corner threes. Sabrina Ionescu then took until her third shot to find success at all three locations.
In the first round, the times got better with each team that went. Team Aces went last and finished with the fastest time of 45.9 seconds; Team Liberty went second-to-last and finished second. Team Wings (Arike Ogunbowale and Satou Sabally) went second and finished third and Team Dream (Cheyenne Parker and Allisha Gray) went first and finished in fourth and last place.