Sky conclude preseason with tough road tests
Coming off a come-from-behind victory against the Washington Mystics on Thursday night, the Chicago Sky will conclude their preseason with two road games: against the New York Liberty on Monday morning at 10:30 and versus the defending WNBA Champion Minnesota Lynx on Tuesday at noon.
Monday’s matchup is key for the Sky. The Liberty, who edged out the Sky for the fourth and final playoff spot last season, are led by Cappie Pondexter, who burned the Sky for 17.2 points per game in five meetings last season. Kia Vaughn is back (10.2 points and 6.0 rebounds vs. the Sky in 2011) and New York has added WNBA veterans Kelly Miller and DeMya Walker to bolster their attack.
The next day the Sky travels to the University of Minnesota to clash with the Lynx, who are coming off a spectacular 2011 season, which culminated in the WNBA title. Chicago will try to slow down Lynx guards Seimone Augustus and Lindsay Whalen, who each averaged 18.0 points per game against the Sky in their two-game sweep of Chicago. Minnesota is projected for big things again in 2012, so this early litmus test against one of the league’s best teams should only help the Sky.
If Thursday night was a glimpse of what to expect from the Sky, the rest of the WNBA could be in trouble. In front of a boisterous crowd at New Trier High School, the Sky claimed their first preseason victory of the year as they turned up the intensity in the fourth quarter to defeat the Mystics, 73-68. Trailing 49-44 after three quarters, Chicago got hot, feeding off of the crowd’s energy and rallied for a thrilling win scoring 29 points in the final 10 minutes.
Early on, it also appeared that the overwhelming talent in the front court with Sylvia Fowles and newcomers Swin Cash and Ruth Riley was just too much for Washington to handle. While the veterans were on the floor, they controlled the paint and the scoreboard. But Pokey was interested in giving the bench and the rookies equal time, so Chicago could not open up its early lead and needed to rally late.
In speaking about the Sky frontcourt, Sky head coach Pokey Chatman had this to say: “They have a veteran flow to them and they understand spacing, they understand ball reversal and they understand how to attack so it’s nice to put them out there.”
Sky guards Epiphanny Prince and Courtney Vandersloot also looked strong in the exhibition opener. Prince led all scorers with 13 points and Vandersloot led the team in assists with seven. Pokey liked what she saw out of Vandersloot as she led the final quarter rally with mostly reserves on the floor.
“It helped to win and let Courtney Vandersloot be the one out there running things so she can understand it’s her team,” said Chatman.
Loaded with talent, Chicago is expected to have its best season yet. Said Vandersloot, “We have high expectations for ourselves and I am looking forward to it.”
Now that we’ve seen the Sky rally in front of their fans on Thursday, it will be another early test to see how the Sky will fare on the road.