By: Kayla Mortellaro
PHOENIX— The Phoenix Mercury sure do like to keep things exciting.
After falling down by 13 points, the Mercury fought hard in the second half to tie the game with the Tulsa Shock by the end of regulation. And with 5 seconds to play and the score still tied in overtime, the in-bounded pass went to DeWanna Bonner, who knocked down a three pointer at the buzzer to give the Mercury an 87-84 win.
“We have just been fighting,” head coach Sandy Brondello said after the game. “We haven’t reached anywhere near our potential but we are finding ways to win. So, I’m proud of that effort, so we can dig deep when we need to. And, you know, that last shot from DB [DeWanna Bonner] is just a great player making a big shot.”
As the play was originally drawn up, Bonner was not the first option, Candice Dupree was. But everyone on the Mercury squad was happy to have Bonner be the hero of the night.
“Well, Candice was actually the first option, but I didn’t realize we had the in-bounds so high and DB was the second [option]. But I actually told her to drive, but she makes those plays,” Brondello said chuckling. “She makes those plays, that is something that she does. I was happy we didn’t have to go into a second overtime.”
Bonner is getting used to having an excellent stat line this season as she finished with a game-high 25 points, 8 rebounds and 3 assists. She also now has extended her consecutive free throw streak to 52 dating back to July 10th. The streak is the fourth longest in WNBA history. Despite all of Bonner’s greatness this season, she still is not used to having the game-winning shot, let alone having it find nothing but net.
“Not often, not often,” Bonner said when asked about how many game ending shots she’s had in her career. “But it happened a couple times this season, but for me to get it right there was pretty big.”
Tulsa got off to a hot-start, grabbing a 13 point lead at one point in the first half. The Shock’s starters all equally contributed with Karima Christmas and Riquina Williams scoring 17 points a piece. Courtney Paris added 16 points and 16 rebounds, Odyssey Sims scored 15 points, and Plenette Pierson contributed 14 points.
“I thought it was a good game between two good teams,” Shock head coach Fred Williams said. “Phoenix is showing a lot of energy and drive lately- my team also, we came out with a lot of fire. We had a lot of opportunities toward the end and we kind of put it away some. I think both teams made some good shots. I think the last shot tells it all when Bonner hit the jump shot.”
In the second-half, Bonner and Dupree were the spark plug for the Mercury. Bonner continued her usual hustle on defense, diving for loose balls and being a play-maker, while Dupree lit up the scoreboard to finish the night with 24 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists.
One of the winning keys for the Mercury as of late has been the chemistry between Bonner and Dupree.
“We are trying,” Dupree said. “It was a little bit of a struggle earlier on in the season, trying to get adjusted to her coming off of ball screens and where she needs to pass me the ball. We’ve come a long way and still, definitely, have more work to do playing with each other, but so far its been pretty good.”
The third member of the big three, Brittney Griner added 18 points, 13 rebounds and 5 blocked shots. Griner however, tweaked her left knee and continued to play the game, but with a brace on.
“Little knee, I’m not really sure what it is but it was obviously hurting her and you could see it was an obvious discomfort for her,” Brondello said. “But she fought through it and she stayed in the game and was able to finish it, and impact it. And it was good to see her hit the offensive boards, we’ve been demanding more of that from her lately.”
An Achilles heel of the Mercury has been their rebounding statistics all season long. Griner was able to disburse her 13 rebounds between 6 offensive and 7 defensive rebounds. In general tonight, the team kept the rebound margin relatively close with the Shock, who hauled in 42 to the Mercury’s 37 rebounds.
Yet again though, the Mercury needed to overcome a double-digit deficit to win. Including tonight’s win, the Mercury have four double-digit comeback wins this season.
“I don’t know, it seems like every game we make it so difficult on ourselves, but it says a lot,” Dupree said about another comeback win. “I think earlier on in the season we wouldn’t have been able to pull out a win like this. We’ve grown mentally, we’ve grown as a team, and we were able to pull it out.”
With the win, the Mercury are now on a four-game winning streak and sit at 13-7 on the season and get set to face first the Minnesota Lynx next.
“We just approach the next challenge,” Brondello said. “It’s Minnesota, the team with the most wins in the West. And it’s just our next challenge, it’s a totally different team. And they have Maya Moore, who I think is one of the best offensive players. And Lindsey Whalen plays at a high standard. But now they have Slyvia Fowles and we are going to have to be on top of our game on both ends of the floor. But it’s a challenge we will look forward to.”
Currently, the Mercury are in second place in the Western Conference behind the Lynx (15-5). Game tips Friday at U.S. Airways Center at 7 p.m.