Wild Win In Wild West

The Sky beat the Los Angeles Sparks 74-71 in overtime on Sunday night and moved into a third-place tie in the WNBA’s Eastern Conference. It was the Sky’s second consecutive overtime win – the team defeated the Western Conference-leading Monarchs in double overtime on Friday night, 94-86. The Sky finishes a three-game west coast road trip with two wins and an 8-8 record.

Candice Dupree led the Sky in the win over the Sparks, with 24 points and 11 rebounds, her fifth double-double of the season. She made the shot to force the overtime. Jia Perkins, who scored a franchise-high 39 points in the Sacramento win, finished the night with 15 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocked shots. Center Chasity Melvin added 12 points, 7 rebounds and 4 steals, which would have been a franchise record, if not for rookie Armintie Price’s record-setting 5 steals. Price also had 9 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists. The Sky scored 32 points off 21 Sparks turnovers.

“We’ve grown up a lot on this trip. We went to Seattle and got our butts kicked,” said Melvin. “When we started the trip, we could have just folded and been like ‘we’re not supposed to win’ because we had a bad season last year. Instead, we stepped up our game. We got two on this road trip, we finished on a positive note and we go back to Chicago with a lot of confidence.”

The Sky never had the lead the last time the two teams met on May 22 in Chicago. The Sky had the lead at the end of the first quarter, 15-13. The team came out aggressively, driving to the lane and getting the Sparks into early foul trouble.

The Sparks went on an offensive run early in the second and led by as many as seven points. At the half the Sparks led 32-27, dominating the Sky in the paint, with 18 of their first-half points down low.

“I talked to the team at halftime,” said Melvin. “It’s been a long road trip. Mentally you feel like you’re tired. I said we have to dig deep -- we’re not playing with any energy. In 20 more minutes we get to go back to Chicago and in the second half that’s what we played like.”

The Sky out-scored the Sparks 19-17 in the third, but the Sparks had a three point lead going into the fourth. Veterans Melvin and Perkins were vocal leaders in the final quarter, encouraging their teammates and telling them, “We want it more.”

After two lay-ups by Melvin and a clutch free throw by Price, the Sky was within three, and Perkins drove down the court and sank a three pointer, tying the game at 58. The Sky had a 61-58 lead with just over three minutes left in the fourth, when Keisha Brown sank a three-point basket to put the Sparks ahead 65-63 with 38.6 seconds remaining. Dupree forced overtime by making a 16-foot jump shot with 9.6 seconds left.

"If you saw the shot, it was pretty ugly,'' Dupree said. "I didn't know how much time was left on the clock. I just knew we had to get a shot up.''

Melvin scored the first basket in the overtime, and then Brooke Wyckoff scored a huge three-pointer to extend the Sky lead. Marta Fernandez made two free throws with 34.5 seconds left to bring the Sparks to within 2 points. Perkins made the second of two free throws with 18.4 seconds to play. The Sparks' Sidney Spencer missed a 3-point shot with 8.8 seconds remaining, and Melvin grabbed the rebound and was fouled. Melvin missed both free throws, but Perkins got the rebound and outran the Sparks to avoid a foul. The Sky continued to struggle at the free throw line, shooting 55.2% on 16-of-29, a slight improvement over the team’s 45.4% (10-of-22) effort in the Sacramento game.

Christi Thomas had 14 points and 8 rebounds for the Sparks (7-8), who have lost six of eight. Marta Fernandez added 12 points and Kiesha Brown had 11. Sparks guard Temeka Johnson made her first appearance of the season since having knee surgery. Taj McWilliams-Franklin also returned after missing two games.