Sky Look to End the Season on a High Note

The Chicago Sky gave fans a tantalizing run, but their playoff hopes were dashed with Thursday’s downfall to an Atlanta team that’s played lights out all month. The Sky came within one game of clinching the franchise’s first postseason berth as they needed to close out the final two games with a pair of wins, while New York would have to accommodate them with a pair of losses to Tulsa. Despite being mathematically eliminated, the Sky have plenty to play for in Saturday’s season finale against last-place Washington. A win would give the team a 14-20 record, which ties for the second-best mark in team history. Additionally, Chicago would love to send off one of the league’s greatest players with a victory.

Ticha Penicheiro will be suiting up for her final game of a long and illustrious career on Saturday. As one of the WNBA’s Top 15 Players of All-Time, the Portugal-born point guard will finish her 15-year career as the all-time leader in assists (2,597) – more than 600 assists ahead of second-place Sue Bird – and second all-time in steals (763). The four-time All-Star who led the Sacramento Monarchs to the 2005 WNBA Championship has been a steady leader in the locker room for her Sky teammates all season. Despite sitting out for more than a month with a foot injury after joining the Sky this year, Penicheiro continued to dispense valuable pointers from the sidelines to fellow guards Courtney Vandersloot and Epiphanny Prince while the team went on to a 7-1 start.

The Sky can’t afford to sleep on the Mystics, who have struggled to a five-win season thanks to injuries and inconsistency. But one of those five wins came at the expense of Chicago on Aug. 19 behind a season-high 22 points from starting guard Matee Ajavon. Mystics forward Crystal Langhorne contributed 18 points and eight boards as Washington overcame strong games by Prince (18 points) and Sylvia Fowles (13 points, 16 rebounds) for a 75-71 win. The Sky, however, twice beat Washington handily at the beginning of the season. Fowles controlled the paint in both games with a performance of 23 points and 12 boards followed by an equally dominant 19 points and 16 rebounds.

Still, Washington is currently riding an 11-game losing streak largely due to injuries – particularly to Langhorne – and they didn’t do Chicago any favors by losing to New York on Sunday. The Mystics’ leading scorer at 14.7 per game, Langhorne left Washington’s game on Sept. 14 against Atlanta with a strained left foot on top of being hampered by left knee injuries. Starting guard Noelle Quinn hasn’t played since Sept. 12 thanks to a shoulder injury. And while Ajavon (ankle) and Ashley Robinson (calf) haven’t missed any games, they’ve been slowed down enough to miss practice time this week. As a result, forward Monique Currie has become the team’s most reliable scorer, averaging 15.4 points in the month of September. Guard Jasmine Thomas has also seen extra run, picking up the scoring slack with four double-digit performances in the past five games, including a 16-point showing on Sunday. The Mystics are the lowest-scoring team in the league at just 69.4 points per game.

Center Carolyn Swords has proven more than capable in Fowles absence. In fact, Fowles and Swords are currently No. 1 and 2 in the league in field goal percentage at 63.8 and 57.5 percent, respectively. Langhorne checks in at No. 4, shooting 56.8 percent, but she may be unavailable for Saturday. Sky fans will remember Washington’s Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton and Michelle Snow, who return to Chicago where they played in 2011.

Tune into Comcast CN100 for all the action at 7 p.m. CT or watch the game on WNBA LiveAccess via www.chicagosky.net.