Kahleah Copper, Courtney Vandersloot, WNBA, Chicago Sky
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Chicago, IL — In a tied series (1-1) and a trip to the WNBA Finals on the line, you could feel the intensity inside Wintrust Arena. I played college basketball and this was one of the most competitive environments I’ve been in. From the jump, everyone in the arena knew this game was going to come down to the end between the Chicago Sky and Connecticut Sun.

The 2021 WNBA MVP, Jonquel Jones had a better game than she did last Thursday finishing with 10 points, 10 rebounds and four blocked shots. Behind her, the Connecticut Sun were trading baskets with the Sky. The game plan for Chicago was simple, don’t let Jonquel Jones touch the ball in the paint. If she does get the ball, double team and make it as hard as possible for her to score.

And difficult it was as Chicago players swarmed Jones each time she touched the ball.

The Connecticut Sun from a roster standpoint has the better team. Jonquel Jones, Brionna Jones, Kurt Miller, all received accolades from the WNBA this year.  You can teach your players how to improve their shooting or defense, you can’t teach them heart. And despite the awards for their opponent, this Chicago Sky team has heart. In Candace Parker’s first year with the Sky, they are just one win away from the WNBA Finals. Parker’s ability to be a floor general and guide her team is remarkable The sixth-seeded Sky isn’t supposed to be leading this series against the Sun, the first seed.

Yet, they are and everyone is chipping in as they are now one game away from eliminating — thus upsetting — Connecticut.

One key player, for this reason, is Kahleah Cooper who started the game out strong for Chicago. As the game continued, she didn’t let up. Whenever the Sky needed an energy spark, there she was. Whether it was a defensive stop or hitting a big shot, Cooper (who finished with a career playoff-high 26 points, two steals, two assists, three rebounds) was making those plays.

The hustle and will of Sky are how Chicago pulled went on an 18-4 run late in the fourth quarter to take the lead. Although Copper was impressive, their win over the Sun wouldn’t have been possible without Allie Quigley’s 21 points, Parker’s double-double of 10 points, 10 rebounds, and Courtney Vandersloot’s timely buckets and 13 assists.

As much back and forth as there was, the ending was the cherry on top. With 13.4 seconds left in the game, Chicago’s Quigley turned the ball over and everyone thought Connecticut was going to take the one-point lead. However, a missed layup by the Sun’s Briann January was rebounded by the Sky, forcing the visiting team to foul. Vandersloot converted on one of two free throws to extend the lead to 85-83.

After a timeout by the Sun, Alyssa Thomas attacked the basket with Parker guarding her. While Parker blocked the shot and despite Connecticut getting the offensive rebound and getting another chance to score, they didn’t. Parker snagged the rebound and was immediately fouled and went to the charity line. She knocked down the first one to push the score to 86-83.

The late Pat Summitt instilled in Parker the importance of rebounding while she was at Tennessee and who was the one who secured the rebound that sealed the game? Candace Parker.

Connecticut couldn’t get a shot off with two seconds left, thus giving the Chicago Sky the lead in the series (2-1) in their 86-83 win over the Connecticut Sun.

The Sun and Sky will tip-off again for game four of the series at Wintrust Arena at 7 PM CST on Wednesday, Oct. 6.

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