By: Kayla Mortellaro
PHOENIX— History repeated itself Tuesday night as the Phoenix Mercury walked off the court at U.S. Airways Center winners against the Chicago Sky.
However, the path to getting the win was much different as the Mercury forced overtime against the Sky and pulled ahead to a final score of 89-87. The Mercury were down by 19 points at one time in the first half, only to have DeWanna Bonner put the team on her back and lead the team to the largest come from behind win in franchise history. The club came from 19 points down once before on June 22nd, 1999.
Bonner scored 28 second-half points en route to 34 points total in the game, with 8 rebounds, 3 steals and 3 assists.
“I just wanted to win,” Bonner said. “We came out pretty sluggish and we got down by a lot. I just wanted to be aggressive and try to get things going. That’s what they preach to me, so that’s what I tried to do.”
The talk that head coach Sandy Brondello gave to her squad at half-time worked as the team responded with a 10-0 run to start the third quarter.
“It was a hard fought game,” Brondello said. “Our first 20 minutes was very average, I mean are you kidding me? We just didn’t execute, we didn’t have any toughness. But in the second-half, it shows about the character of this team. I thought our defense went to another level.”
For the Sky, their star player and league’s leading point scorer Elena Delle Donne still put up 32 points on the night on 10 of 24 shooting and 1 of 5 behind the arc. But the Mercury swarmed, put pressure and made her shoot contested shots. Former Mercury player Cappie Pondexter added 13 points and 7 boards for the Sky, and Allie Quigley provided 14 points off the bench.
“Delle Donne still scored 32 but she’s an amazing, amazing offensive player,” Brondello said. “But we really dug deep and we made it hard for them. And we competed way better.”
Trying to stop a player like Delle Donne who is averaging 24.5 points a game is a tough task. Candice Dupree and Bonner spent the majority of the time trying to slow Delle Donne down.
“She’s good,” Bonner said. “She has a great shot and so it’s kind of hard to block it. She is a great player and fortunately everybody who played defense on her did a great job.”
As the Mercury was clawing their way back in to contention in front of 10,707 fans, the team got much needed buckets from Dupree in the third quarter, who finished the night with 11 points. In addition to Bonner lighting the court on fire, Brittney Griner added 14 points, 8 rebounds and 5 blocked shots in the come-back.
Sky head coach Pokey Chatman doesn’t think the Mercury altered the game-plan much in the second-half, it was more of her own team’s offensive struggles. But she knows all too well what can happen when the Mercury’s top three players gain some momentum.
“I thought we created some momentum for ourselves and then coming out of the half, we struggled for about five and a half minutes to put points on the board,” Chatman said. “I thought we did a decent job on getting that back. But with a team like Phoenix, we let them get momentum in areas that they didn’t previously like in some transition baskets, points in the paint, their key players, like Candice [Dupree] hitting a couple in a row, Bonner with her threes. You can’t do that with any team let alone the defending champs at home.”
Eventually with 4.3 seconds to play in regulation and the Sky up by two points, the in-bounds play went to a hot-handed Bonner. Pondexter fouled Bonner to send her to line with 1.6 seconds to play in the fourth quarter. Bonner extended her consecutive free-throw streak to 30 with her two buckets to send the game in to overtime.
“That’s DB [DeWanna Bonner],” Griner said after the game. “We all know that she can make those shots. She practices those type of shots. She shoots them in practice. We want the ball in DB’s hands at the end of the game.”
With the win, the Mercury snapped a two-game losing streak to improve to 10-7 on the season.
“We went into the All-Star break with two losses,” Griner said. “So we definitely wanted to get a win and we’re going on a two game road trip for five days away, so we definitely want to win on the road— that’ll be big for the playoffs.”
The Mercury have a battle in the Western Conference with the Tulsa Shock on Thursday, July 30th at 5 p.m. And then an Eastern Conference match-up against the Atlanta Dream on Sunday, August 2nd at 12:00 p.m. with coverage on Fox Sports Arizona Plus.