Moore, Peters Continue Championship Paths
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Ask Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve and she’ll repeat what analysts have said about Maya Moore since her college days at Connecticut. Anywhere Moore goes, championships follow.
That’s not too far off. Since 2009, Moore has collected two NCAA Division I women’s basketball titles, a WNBA championship with the Lynx in 2011 and a Gold Medal with the U.S. Women’s Basketball Team this summer.
But on this Lynx team, she’s not alone when it comes to recent championship game experience at both the collegiate and professional levels. Between herself and rookie Devereaux Peters, the two have represented a team in each of the past four NCAA championship games and will be able to say—regardless of the WNBA Finals outcome, which begins with Game 1 on Sunday at Target Center against the Indiana Fever—that they’ve reached the league’s championship series in their rookie years.
A title would put the icing on the cake for these two, who have no shortage of big-game experience—the type that some athletes strive their entire careers for and never experience.
“It’s not a coincidence with these two,” Reeve said. “They’re winners in the way they approach their business.”
The two entered the WNBA as top three picks in back-to-back drafts, Moore the No. 1 overall selection in 2011 and Peters the No. 3 pick this spring. When Moore came into the league, the Lynx were not yet on the championship radar but had put the pieces in place to the point that she said she and her teammates could sense something special brewing even from Day 1 of Training Camp.
A consensus top pick, Moore was a pivotal part in the team’s title run, earning Rookie of the Year honors and quickly showing her dominance at UConn translated to the pro game.
Peters joined a year later, after the Lynx had put together a 27-7 record, rolled through the postseason and won the franchise’s first WNBA title. She was handpicked out of Notre Dame coming off two straight NCAA championship game appearances, having lost both but showing the intangibles and desire that the Lynx wanted to add to their front court. She’s filled her role behind Taj McWilliams-Franklin and Rebekkah Brunson all year, and during the team’s stretch run in September she put together her best stretch statistically of her rookie season.
As they head into the Finals, the two have backgrounds playing on the brightest of stages.
“The experiences we’ve had at such a young age in championship settings has prepared us for moments like this,” Moore said. “Being so young and being able to contribute and help—confidence, mentally knowing how to be smart, how to play. We’re going to make mistakes, but just how to approach championship seasons. It’s very fortunate we’ve been able to be in those positions.”
It’s been a learning experience for both. Carrying the title of “defending champion” is something Moore did twice at UConn as well as during this 2012 season with the Lynx. At this level, she said the time to prepare and familiarity with every opponent the face is the biggest difference between the collegiate and professional levels.
In college, there were teams the Huskies played in the NCAA tournament they’d never seen before, and in the round of 32, the Elite Eight and the NCAA championship teams have just two days to fully prepare for the opponent they’ll be facing.
With Indiana, the Lynx played the Fever twice this regular season and know the ins and outs of their game. So, too, are the Fever familiar with how to approach the Lynx.
“We’re playing teams multiple times a year. You know their tendencies, what they like to do,” Moore said. “The window for making mistakes is a lot smaller at the pro level because we know each other so well. The anxiety, the excitement is still the same as far as wanting to win the championship and wanting to win every game.”
This will be Peters’ first WNBA Finals appearance, and it’s something she’s strived for since Draft day in April.
“It’s been amazing to come in with such great players and great women,” Peters said. “And to be able to be in this atmosphere and also be winning, it’s been a great rookie year for me. I’m really happy, really excited to be here.”
The two have been through championship games before. Beginning Sunday, their two paths will merge together for a shot at making WNBA history.
“We’re fortunate to be in a position where if we play our A Game we don’t think anyone can beat us,” Moore said. “That’s the goal to come out and if we do that all the wins and stats will take care of themselves.”
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