Dearica Hamby stood there, even after her national television interview, hands on her head in disbelief. Her Las Vegas Aces teammates were celebrating, the Chicago Sky players were dejectedly making their way back to the locker room in Thomas and Mack Center. And Hamby stood alone in the middle of the floor for a moment, clearly trying to process what had just happened.
With the seconds of their season literally ticking down, Hamby stepped in front of a Courtney Vandersloot pass along the sideline, dribbled once and then launched the ball just steps from the halfcourt line with 6.5 seconds to go.
And it went in.
The Las Vegas crowd erupted. Aces coach Bill Laimbeer jumped up and down. Sky coach James Wade desperately called a time out. And players from both teams were stunned.
Chicago’s last chance at a snatching back the win came up short and Las Vegas won 93-92 in remarkable, unforgettable fashion.
“I don’t know what I did to deserve that,” Hamby said in her poignantly in her postgame interview, just a couple of hours after she was named the WNBA’s Sixth Woman of the Year for her contributions off the bench for the Aces this season.
When Hamby let the ball fly, she did not know how much time was left on the clock. Too much time. She admitted after the game that she never would have forgiven herself if the ball hadn’t gone it.
”I didn’t realize we had so much time on the clock,” said Hamby. ”Had I missed it, I never would have been able to live with it. So glad we won.”
All is forgiven now.
The Aces, given the unenviable task of playing away from their home floor in a single-elimination game, trailed early by as many as 14 points before clawing back into the game by halftime.
The final minutes were filled with drama, angst, and in the end, one of the biggest postseason moments in league history.
Chicago had taken the lead only moments before when Astou Ndour buried a 3-pointer from the corner with 24.2 seconds to go to give the Sky a 92-90 lead. Things looked even worse for the Aces when star forward A’ja Wilson had the ball poked away by Vandersloot on a drive to the basket and it went off Wilson’s knee and out of bounds to give the ball back to Chicago with 14.6 seconds remaining.
With 13.9 seconds on the clock, Vandersloot took the inbounds pass, dribbling away from Kelsey Plum in an effort to avoid the foul and burn time off the clock. Vandersloot came to the sideline and heaved an overhead pass intended for Diamond DeShields. Hamby read the moment and stepped in front to snatch the ball.
The rest is now WNBA history.
“I’m glad Hamby executed the play that I drew up,” Aces coach Bill Laimbeer joked to open his postgame press conference.
The Aces are moving on, headed to Washington to take on the top-seeded Mystics in the best-of-five WNBA semifinals. Connecticut and Los Angeles will tangle on the other side of the bracket after the Sparks won going away in LA on Sunday.
“It’s a win; we’ll take it,” Aces forward A’ja Wilson said after the game. “Dearica, that’s our x-factor. I’m not surprised that’s who it is (that hit the game-winner). She’s built for this, she deserves this and I’m just proud of her.”
Longtime WNBA reporter Michelle Smith writes a weekly column on WNBA.com throughout the season. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the WNBA or its clubs.