CHICAGO (AP) – Candace Parker returned home to win a championship in Chicago. That’s exactly what she did, leading the Sky to the franchise’s first title.
Allie Quigley scored 26 points and Parker added 16 points, 13 rebounds and five assists and Chicago beat the Phoenix Mercury 80-74 on Sunday in Game 4.
“This one is so sweet,” said a champagne soaked Parker. “To do it with this group. I love this group, I love this team. And to do it here at home, it was just meant to be.
The Phoenix players declined to come to the post-game press conference. Their locker room door was smashed and someone familiar with the incident said at least one of the team’s players was responsible. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity as the investigation was ongoing.
Courtney Vandersloot added 10 points and 15 assists for Sky, who won the series 3-1, rallying to a 72-65 deficit with 4:42 to go. Chicago scored the next nine points to take a two-point lead over Stefanie Dolson’s layup. She then added another basket to bring the score to 76-72 with 45.8 seconds left.
Diana Taurasi was fouled on the next possession shooting a 3-pointer and made the first two free throws, but missed the third.
Vandersloot then scored in the hallway to seal the victory and spark the celebration. At the sound of the final bell, Parker sprinted to the corner of the pitch and hugged his family with tears in their eyes.
“It was amazing kissing my mom and dad,” Parker said. “It was just an amazing feeling to be from here and to see so many people in the stands supporting you since you started. It’s just a time to really take it in.
It was a complete moment for Parker, who triumphantly returned home to Chicago this season after spending 13 years with Los Angeles. She was continually referred to as Sky’s missing piece throughout the playoffs, a label she proved accurate on several occasions during the stunning Chicago run, winning the title as a seed six.
“It’s amazing. My high school coach is here,” Parker said. “I know Pat (Summitt) is watching. I’ve got the whole town here. We’ve got the whole town here. We’re champions for life. now.
Brittney Griner was a focal point of the Phoenix offense from the start. The seven-time All-Star finished the game with 28 points, including 18 in the first half. Griner and guard Skylar Diggins-Smith helped lead a 9-0 run to complete the second quarter and give Phoenix a 44-37 halftime advantage.
Still, Quigley’s explosion in the fourth quarter ultimately nullified any attempts Phoenix could make to avoid elimination.
“It wasn’t our night,” said Phoenix coach Sandy Brondello. “Allie did some really big hits for them. We left her open, and she made them. It would be nice to go back to a Game 5 now, but that won’t happen this year.
Parker initially struggled to get into an attacking pace, going one for six from the floor with just four points at the end of the first half.
Phoenix’s lead extended to 14 at one point in the third, but the deficit wasn’t large enough to shake Chicago’s confidence down the stretch.
“We stayed together,” Sky coach James Wade said. “It was a microcosm of our season, where you come down and you keep pushing. In the end the crowd took over, our players stayed together and you started to see who we were. I never doubted for a minute that we were going to win this game.
Kahleah Copper, who had been a force in the first four games of the final, took home the MVP honors of the championship.
“I have this nervousness and this harshness about me that is going to keep me going,” Copper said. “It was very important for me to be consistent this year and better than last year. You put in the work and you are rewarded.
After the game, Parker mentioned a photo she took with her daughter on the field after winning her first championship with Los Angeles. She keeps the photo on her wall, and her daughter’s desire to be a part of a similar moment helped convince Parker to come home.
“I asked him if it was OK if I came to Chicago,” Parker said. “And she was like ‘I want another photo like this.’ It’s crazy, because she came to court and said ‘we did it’, and it was just surreal.
Emotions were high for both teams from the start, as Taurasi and Copper were each hit with technical fouls in 50 seconds in the first quarter.
The Sky drew a sold-out crowd despite the Chicago Bears hosting rivals Green Bay Packers just down the street at Soldier Field. Chance the Rapper was once again on hand to support his hometown team.
Chicago coach James Wade became the third black coach to win a WNBA championship, joining Michael Cooper who did it with the Los Angeles Sparks and Corey Gaines, who did it with Phoenix. … Phoenix was 4-0 in the WNBA Finals after losses until Sunday’s loss.