Brian’s Courtside Blog - September 9 vs. Washington

Hey Sky fans, Brian here coming to you from the scorers table. Tonight the Sky return home to play their final three games of the season before the long off-season begins. Over the weekend the Sky were unfortunately eliminated from the playoff race, however the young talent on the Sky roster is piling up for Head Coach Steven Key for next season, and these final three games hopefully will be a sneak peak of what’s to come in 2009!

The last time the Sky and Washington Mystics got together, the Sky was victorious 79-75 back on August 29. Sylvia Fowles led the way in that game with 20 points, 13 rebounds, and 5 blocks. By far and away what I am most excited about tonight is seeing if Fowles can replicate her performance and keep her dominating play rolling for the reminder of the season.

As the game began I was very intrigued to see if either team would have any type of let down after being eliminated from playoff contention this past weekend. The intensity level was high on both sides of the ball from the opening tip, making it clear that both the Sky and Mystics have an immense amount of pride and came to play this evening.

A perfect example of this is a play Armintie Price made late in the first quarter that will not show up in the box score. The Mystics Alana Beard intercepted a Sky pass at the top of the key and had a clear path to the basket as she went on a break away. Out of nowhere, Armintie came sprinting up from behind her and knocked the ball away out of bounds. The Mystics would fail to score on this possession (Armintie saved the day…or 2 points). These types of hustle plays are the ones coaches and all basketball fans love to see.

The Mystics Monique Currie ended the first quarter with a pull up three-pointer from between the three-point arc and half-court stripe that found the bottom of the net and tied the game up at 18-18. As she pumped her fist in excitement I glanced down towards Coach Key who appeared to roll his eyes as Currie’s shot went in. Coach, I’m right there with you, what else can you do?

With just over three minutes to go in the first half, the Sky converted one of the prettiest baskets I have seen them score this season. The ball rotated around the perimeter to the right side of the floor before it was dumped down low to Fowles on the block. As soon as Fowles caught the ball, she spun towards the baseline. As that happened Jia Perkins received a back screen from the top of the key and headed towards the corner. Fowles found Perkins wide open from underneath the basket, and Perkins was able to knock down the long range jump shot. Basketball 101 at its finest!

Something I think everyone should know about the women’s game is how physical it is, and tonight’s game was no exception. Watching Fowles bang with Nakia Sanford on every play is something else to see in person. Not everyone may think that women’s basketball is as nearly as physical as men’s, well I am here to tell you that that it is, and if you don’t believe me you need to come check it out.

On a more comedic level, I must say that Mystics Head Coach Jessie Kenlaw is much more polite…and quieter than most other WNBA coaches. During a stoppage in play in the third quarter, Kenlaw walked towards half-court and calmly spoke to one of the referees and asked him, “Can I ask you a question?” Let’s just say, sitting where I sit and hearing what I hear, I am 100% positive that most coaches are not as reserved when they attempt to get the ref’s attention.

Getting back to the physicality of the game, it was never more evident than in the middle of the third quarter. Fowles caught the ball on the low block and went to work, trying to gain around her defender. As Fowles got ready to go up for her shot, she hammered her defender with her left elbow and sent her flying. As the crowd reacted with a loud OHHH, I was quite impressed with the fierce play on the court.

With just over 5 minutes to go in the game, I happened to be watching Jia Perkins play defense as she made an incredible play on the defensive end. She denied the player she was guarding the ball, who immediately took off and made a back door cut. Perkins opened up to the ball properly and was able to steal the ball away from the Mystics. Perkins and Fowles headed down the court on a 2 on 1 fast break. As both players entered into the paint, Perkins lobbed the ball up to Fowles who caught the above the rim and laid it in.

Before the game started the Mystics radio announcer spoke to me about Fowles, “I think in two or three years she is gong to be drop stepping and dunking on everyone! She is so good and athletic it’s not even funny. I really like her game.”

If there was ever a chance for Fowles to dunk in a Sky uniform this year it was on the very fast break I just spoke about. She is going to change the way women’s basketball is played; luckily, we get to see it all right here in Chicago!

The teams played very evenly for three quarters, both had their runs to take the lead at several points in the game but not enough to distance themselves from one another. That is until Chas Melvin began a string of baskets for the Sky at the beginning of the 4th quarter that pushed the Sky ahead for good. Before Chas converted a three-point play the Sky trailed 52-50. Soon after the Sky lead 63-52 after a Perkins jump shot and coasted to a 78-59 win. Like I said, a glimpse of what is to come next season Sky fans!

If you have yet to come out and see gold medalist Sylvia Fowles and the rest of the Chicago Sky, you still have 2 more chances. The Sky returns to action this Friday at home at the UIC Pavilion as they welcome the playoff bound New York Liberty at 7:30pm. The Sky will close the season this Sunday at home against the Houston Comets at 3pm. Great seats still remain, call 866.SKY.WNBA now to get your tickets!