PHOENIX (AP) — It’s been quite a week for Breanna Stewart, Sue Bird and Jewell Loyd.
Five days after helping the U.S. win its seventh consecutive Olympic gold medal, they added the inaugural WNBA Commissioner’s Cup title to their resumes.
Stewart scored 15 of her 17 points in the first quarter and the Seattle Storm routed the Connecticut Sun 79-57 on Thursday night. Loyd added 16, and Bird had 10.
“It felt good,” Bird said. “We will always be the first winner. The Commissioner’s Cup is a good sign of things to come with our league.”
They didn’t look jet lagged at all, outscoring Connecticut 43-40 heading into the fourth quarter when none of them played. Seattle had a 28-point lead at that point.
After the game ended, the team celebrated on the court as confetti rained down.
“It’s different because we don’t know how to feel. It is something big what our players just achieved,” Seattle coach Noelle Quinn said. “I loved the confetti, the trophy, it was like a playoff atmosphere and it was great for our league to add this.”
The in-season tournament saw Connecticut and Seattle finish as the top teams in the Eastern and Western Conferences. Members of the Storm earned in excess of $30,000 per player, while those on Connecticut earned $10,000 per player.
Stewart earned an additional $5,000 for winning the MVP award. It’s latest trophy she’s won over the last year. She’s had quite a year, a Russian title and Finals MVP, EuroLeague championship and Final Four MVP, and WNBA title and Finals MVP.
“This is why we play, to be in these moments,” Stewart said. “Competing for something to be winners. I wanted to play my best, do my job.”
Despite not having the entire team together until game day, Seattle jumped out to a 28-18 lead after the first quarter behind Stewart. She made five of her six shots in the period.
The Storm increased their lead to 46-35 at the half. Loyd got going in the third quarter as the Storm turned the game into a rout. She had seven of the team’s 22 points in the period as Seattle held Connecticut to just five.
“I thought they had their legs. Stewie made really tough shots there early,” Sun coach Curt Miller said. “They looked like three players averaging 30 minutes in the Olympics, we looked like it was our first game in nearly five weeks. I worried a little bit about that. We couldn’t disrupt them.”
DeWanna Bonner scored 11 points and Jonquel Jones added 10 points and 11 rebounds for the Sun. They shot just 33% from the field.
Connecticut had no Olympians on its roster and had a few weeks to prepare for this contest.
Seattle reserves Ezi Magbegor and Stephanie Talbot also were in Tokyo, playing for Australia. … The WNBA resumes its season Sunday after a month-long break for the Olympics.
REMEMBER THE MOMENT:
WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert tossed a ceremonial ball up before the game to commemorate the event. Stewart lost the tip to Jonquel Jones.
CUTTING EDGE TECH:
The game featured next generation tracking technology as players from both teams wore sensors that provided data such as how fast players sprinted or how often the jumped. The WNBA also used optical tracking technology that generated three dimensional immersive highlights that were used during the Amazon Prime Video broadcast.
Seattle’s Katie Lou Samuelson returned to the court after getting COVID right before the Olympics. She was supposed to play on the U.S. 3-on-3 team, but contracted the virus a few days before the Tokyo Games began. The Americans won the inaugural gold medal.
Storm: Seattle begins a key five-game trip in Chicago on Sunday.
Sun: Connecticut plays at Dallas on Sunday before going home for five straight games.