Prahalis Shines in Total Team Win

By Ben York, PhoenixMercury.com

Eight.

That’s how many players were available for the Mercury tonight.

Didn’t matter.

They were also without their top three scorers.

Didn’t matter.

They were coming off an exceedingly tough loss against the previously winless Tulsa Shock.

Didn’t matter.

They clicked. Even better, they clicked as a team.

We knew it would happen eventually. But the way it happened tonight in an 80-77 victory was something special.

Gutsy.

Yes, it’s just a single win that elevates the team’s record to 3-7 on the season. But that should take absolutely nothing away from the heart and resilience the Mercury showed tonight.

From a strictly numbers point of view, this was likely the Mercury’s best overall game of the season so far. Every player who came into the game scored. Four players were in double-digits (Bonner, Thomas, Hornbuckle, Prahalis). Phoenix out-rebounded the Mystics 36-33. Forced 14 turnovers which led to 12 Mercury points including four shot clock violations. Shot 46 percent from the field. Turned the ball over only 10 times.

Indeed, those are all phenomenal signs for this team.

But what doesn’t show up in the stat sheet was the personification of how much tonight's win meant to the team from an emotional standpoint.

From an energy standpoint, this was (by far) the most active the team has been all season. Krystal Thomas (15 points, 6 rebounds) and Alexis Hornbuckle (11 points, 2 rebounds) clearly had their best games yet in a Mercury uniform. Avery Warley (6 points, 9 rebounds), Andrea Riley (6 points, 6-6 FT’s), and Charde Houston (6 points, 4 rebounds) stepped up big for the Mercury on the defensive end of the floor. Ultimately, they set the tone for how things would go for the team offensively.

And how huge were DeWanna Bonner and Sammy Prahalis?!

DeWanna played all 40 minutes tonight.

All. 40. Minutes.

Finishing with 19 points and 7 rebounds, Bonner’s leadership and energy were the catalysts in sealing the victory down the stretch. It is nearly impossible to articulate how much she has meant to the Mercury in 2012 (and, if I’m honest, her entire career).

“It felt like we were the old Mercury,” DeWanna Bonner said after the Mercury’s huge win. “Sammy [Prahalis] did a good job of getting to the basket and finding me on that 3-pointer, and that got things going.”

Also, let it be known that any Mercury fan wondering who “Styles P” was, she was the Mercury point guard who took over the game in the final minutes.

Or, more specifically, that’s who Sammy Prahalis morphed into late in the game – her alter-ego, if you will.

Trailing 74-69 with 2:26 remaining, Prahalis hit a 3-pointer as the shot clock expired, sparking an 11-3 Mercury run to end the game. Following her 3-pointer, Prahalis rebounded a Noelle Quinn miss and assisted on a DeWanna Bonner 3-pointer on the other end, giving Phoenix back-to-back threes after starting the game 1-11 from long range.

Prahalis finished with 15 points, grabbed a career-high seven rebounds and recorded three assists.

"I just wanted to come out and be aggressive," Prahalis said modestly. "I'm just really happy that we got the win. That's what is most important to me."

In the end, perhaps Krystal Thomas said it best.

“We gave as much effort and hustle as we had to,” said Thomas. “We had a rebounding presence in the paint. It was important we stayed on the boards all night, and that was what we focused on.”

Admittedly, there’s still work to be done.

But for now, this is a win all Mercury fans should enjoy.

Notes

- DeWanna Bonner scored a team-high 19 points on 7-18 shooting while playing all 40 minutes. Bonner is averaging 20.1 points in her last seven games, since the week she was named Western Conference Player of the Week.

- Krystal Thomas scored a career-high 15 points on 7-8 shooting, recording her first double-digit scoring effort of her career. She also finished with six rebounds. In all of 2011 with the Mercury, Thomas totaled 21 points and eight rebounds.

- Alexis Hornbuckle scored a season-high 11 points on 4-8 shooting, her most points scored since June 19, 2010.

- Despite playing without starters Candice Dupree and Nakia Sanford who combine to average 19.1 points per game this season, the Mercury scored at least 80 points in a game for the fourth time this season and the first time since the home opener on May 26.

- The Mercury will host the Los Angeles Sparks on June 23 at 6:00 p.m.