By: Kayla Mortellaro
PHOENIX--- The Phoenix Mercury had a total team effort Wednesday night as the team never trailed against the Seattle Storm 83-66.
The Mercury's bench provided a big boost on the night scoring 47 combined points, and giving the starters some much needed rest.
"We did what we needed to do, head coach Sandy Brondello said. "We just needed to take care of our business. It worked in well, we didn't want to over play anyone and it was good to get some confidence with our bench. Because going forward we are going to need all 11 healthy players that we have."
Specifically, Noelle Quinn played 22 minutes and led the team in scoring with 13 points. Cayla Francis added 11 points, all of which were three pointers. And Mistie Bass had an efficient night going 4-for-6 for nine points and 10 rebounds (five offensive, five defensive). The bench players' energy proved to be important and gave the Mercury the separation they needed.
"Mistie [Bass] gives a lot of energy, she'll always play hard, compete, set great screens, offensive rebounds," Brondello said. "She does all the intangibles, sometimes, don't always show up in the stat sheet, but they did today. And also, Cayla [Francis], she can really stretch that defense out. That's the kind of versatility we need. I think that will make us the best team possible."
On a night when Brittney Griner found herself in foul trouble early-on, and went 0-for-4 from the floor, scoring four points, and grabbing five boards in 19 minutes of playing time; the strong play of Francis and Bass was needed. Bass admits she knows her role, and she plays it well.
"I think it's just trying to raise the level of intensity," Bass said about her mindset when she enters the game. "With BG [Brittney Griner] getting in foul trouble, it was my time to be able to set screens, I think of it as creating opportunities for my teammates to get really good shots, and then being able to dive real hard. And they didn't box me out today. So, just having that ability to see where the ball was going and be able to be aggressive that way."
Candice Dupree added 10 points and three rebounds while DeWanna Bonner scored 11 points, had six rebounds, and four assists. Both players' playing minutes were under 27 minutes on the night. As a defending WNBA Champion, Bonner knows just how important finding rest is at this stage of the year. And the importance of having the bench contribute strong minutes and points will be necessary to make a push toward the end of the season and beyond.
"It's getting to that part in the season where it's a grind, so anywhere you can get your rest, you try to get it," Bonner said. And yeah, we need those games actually, a confidence booster for everybody."
The Storm (6-18) did not have an answer for the Mercury, falling behind from the opening bucket. Phoenix continued their emphasis on rebounding and out-dueled Seattle 39-29.
"Phoenix is a great team and Sandy [Brondello] is doing a great job with them," Storm head coach Jenny Boucek said. "You really have no margin for error because they have a lot of weapons. They're well coached and we just didn't have enough tonight to counter all their weapons."
For the Storm, Ramu Tokashiki and Kaleena Mosqueda-Le both had game-high 14 points on the night. But with Sue Bird sitting out the game for rest, Seattle did not have a star with fire power to slow the Mercury's attack down.
With the win, the Mercury have improved to 15-8 on the season and sit in second place in the Western Conference with 11 games left in the regular season. The Mercury are an impressive 8-0 against Western Conference opponents this season at home and 12-3 overall.
As the season approaches crunch time, games like Wednesday night's are encouraging that the team is coming together as a unit.
"I think at this time of the season it's really important for not only the starting five but the bench to be hitting on all cylinders because when it comes time for the playoffs, we're going to need everybody because you just never know when a player like BG [Brittney Griner] or DB [DeWanna Bonner] is going to get in foul trouble, and there can't be a drop off and that's our job to make sure that is doesn't," Bass said.
Phoenix is on a four-game home winning streak and look to extend it Sunday, August 16th against the Indiana Fever. Tip-off is 5 p.m. on ESPN 2. The game is also the Mercury's Woman of Inspiration Game and will feature Little League star Mo'ne Davis.