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Propelled by Offensive Explosion from A’ja Wilson, Aces top Fever 102-97 in OT win on PRIDE Night

Las Vegas, NV – From the moment Bill Laimbeer’s Las Vegas Aces stepped onto their home court for Saturday night’s contest against the Fever, it was clear that their superstar power forward A’ja Wilson was going to impose her will and seize control of the game. Time and again on Saturday night, that’s exactly what the second-year supernova did, pouring in 39 points on 14-for-20 shooting (including 11-for-14 from the free throw line), with 11 rebounds, and five assists in ultimately leading her team to a much-needed victory – albeit with a little help eventually from an otherwise dreadful Liz Cambage, who finally came alive in overtime.

While Wilson hoisted the team on her back and absolutely carried them on Saturday, it was also a great team win, with multiple players making winning plays down the stretch in the fourth quarter and OT, but it was the 6’8″ Aussie center that did the job in the overtime period, shaking off a rather pathetic start and sparking the attack with twelve huge points in OT.

“Cambage in overtime went to work, that’s what she does, that’s who she is. When Liz is fully engaged like she was in the overtime, she’s really good. When she floats out there (early on) she never got into the game, she got distracted by the foul trouble, she never really got into the game wasn’t engaged at that point in the game… But Liz gave us all that offense in the overtime, and that’s phenomenal. ” -Bill Laimbeer

Dearica Hamby continued to strengthen her case as the early season favorite for the sixth woman of the year, as she notched another double-double, and made a couple of tough shots down low in the fourth. After a crafty floater in the lane by Kayla McBride, the Aces had a three-point advantage.

Wilson made an unbelievable lefty layup following a scintillating spin-move, and then the Aces resliliency and work on the offensive glass lead to multiple second chances, ultimately culminating in Wilson knocking down another patented free throw line jumper for her thirtieth points on the night, but Kelsey Mitchell answered back for the Fever, bringing the Aces lead back down to one. Wilson got to her spot once again for another jumper from the elbow, and vet Candice Dupree answered back with a mid-range jumper of her own.

 

WATCH VIDEO HERE

The announced attendance of 4,581 for Saturday’s game including R & B hitmaker Tank, enjoyed a dramatic and action-packed game on Saturday night and it became clear right from the outset that Wilson was intent on continuing her stellar play of late, as seen in her assertiveness in pacing the Aces 22 points in the first half alone. The entire game was a showcase in the myriad ways the smooth southpaw has continued to expand her game, as she could be seen going to her (off) right hand, facing up and getting downhill off an efficient jab step, and even showing a nice hesi-step back that former NBA MVP James Harden would be envious of. Oh, and then there’s the fact that Wilson also seemed to -for this game at least- mastered the art of getting to the line at will (she got to the line ten times in the first half alone).

With the Aces protecting a one-point lead, Wilson could not corral a pass from Plum, and Indiana took the lead after Natalie Achonwa corraled a Dupree miss from deep and scored on the putback. Hamby blew right by a hard closing Achonwa on the ensuing possession to restore the Aces’ one-point lead.

Wilson then showed her ever-expanding arsenal again, making a beautiful up-fake and “show-and-go” move. The made basket gave Wilson 34 huge points on the night, and more importantly, a three-point lead for the Aces with just 34.6 seconds on the clock following a timeout to allow the game officials to determine possession off a loose ball the Fever had the ball and a three-point deficit to overcome with 27.9 to go. They once again made a series of selfless passes, eventually working the ball around to Wheeler, whose shot from the corner was true, and tied the game again.

Following a Laimbeer timeout, the Aces had the ball and 17.2 seconds on the clock, they were clearly playing to hold for the final shot, and after running pick and roll action featuring Plum and Wilson, Plum’s contested off-balance jumper hit off the back iron, allowing Achonwa to secure the crucial defensive rebound and send the game into OT.

Cambage would open the scoring in the five minute overtime period with a nice seal down low for the easy bunny. The next trip down the floor Wilson would draw yet another foul and head to the line. Wilson converted one out of two free throws to give the Aces a one-point lead at 87-86. Cambage made another runner in the lane to push the Aces advantage to 89-86, but Kelsey Mitchell would respond from 3 to tie things up, and then follow that with another to put the visitors up 1. Wilson would respond with another midrange J to pull the Aces within one at 92-91, and then Cambage powered over her defender to put the Aces back up a single digit.

Cambage would score on two more consecutive trips down the floor, the final bucket followed by an emphatic fist pump and celebratory scream from the normally subdued and mild-mannered pivot, as her shot gave the Aces a 97-94 Aces lead with less than a minute to play.

Wilson went to the line to shoot a pair of free throws with 39.3 left in OT and a chance to seal it, and the second-year star calmly knocked down both shots from the foul line, to give her a new career-high 39 points to go along with a 99-94, five-point lead that they would not relinquish.

Following a pair of Dupree free throws, the Aces used their final timeout and with just 19.7 left on the clock in overtime, looked to find McBride on the inbounds play coming out of the timeout, but when she was doubled Jackie Young got the ball inside to Cambage who was also swarmed instantly and fouled. The 6’8″ Aussie calmly knocked down both free throws, giving her 12 points in the overtime period alone, and a total of 16 in a game in which she said she otherwise “played horribly.”

The Aces played great individual and team defense on the ensuing possession, forcing a virtually unmakable shot attempt, then each found a body to box out in order to secure the rebound. McBride surprisingly missed the first of two free throws, but still sealed the game with the one she did sink, making the final score 102-97.

Wilson simply put, imposed her will and was seemingly everywhere, in perpetual attack mode to the point where she had already tallied 20 points midway through the 2nd quarter.

Kayla McBride looked to be bouncing back to form after a couple of uneven performances, as she had a good rhythm in the game’s early going, as the player who is affectionately known as “Mac” to her teammates hit a quintessential McBride pullup from deep for 3, and then twice made slick behind-the-back moves for some of the games saucier moments.

Things started to look shaky early, when the Aces were strangely called for a few rather dubious offensive fouls in the early going, much to the chagrin of the clearly bemused Cambage, who was the victim of two early fouls and also guilty of countless petulant outbursts throughout the contest.

On the other side, Candice Dupree led a quartet of Fever performers that did their best to keep Indiana close, as the smooth and crafty veteran began to cook in the third, using a nice Dwayne Wade-esque pump fake to get Wilson up in the air on one particularly adept move. The ageless Dupree, now in her fourteenth year out of North Philly’s Temple University, cruised to 20 points on the night, and was joined in leading the scoring charge for the Fever by by guards Kelsey Mitchell and Erica Wheeler.

The Aces backcourt play was again somewhat uneven, as rookie Jackie Young played well in tallying eight points to go along with 10 assists and zero turnovers. However Kelsey Plum continues to struggle with her shot, as she went 1-for-7. Dearica Hamby continued to be a do-it-all linchpin off the bench, supplying a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds.

Veteran big Natalie Achonwa was a steady and unselfish presence on the floor for the visiting squad from the Hoosier state as shown when she found Wheeler streaking down the floor with a beautiful look for the layin that beat the first quarter buzzer, giving the visiting Fever an eight-point advantage heading into the games 2nd ten minute

Saturday also saw reserve center Carolyn Swords playing extended minutes for one of the few times this year, sealed her man off to secure a nice offensive rebound, then converted on the putback. Minutes later, Plum would unselfishly turn down an open jumper and find a cutting Swords for another layup, moments later, the Boston College product would convert yet again, as Wilson found her wide open coming down the lane to tie things up.

Coach Pokey Chatman’s Fever squad put the screws to the Aces in their first possession coming out of halftime as they swung the ball around, making at least a half dozen passes running the Aces defenders around the perimeter, before finally finding Betnijah Laney in the corner where she drained an open three.

Jackie Young continued to show that she can be very effective when playing aggressive and instinctively, as she made an incredibly tough runner in traffic to just barely beat the shot clock, and then Ty Young made a good hustle play moments later, to put the Aces back up by a basket, at 63-61 heading into the fourth quarter.

Natalie Achonwa would find Wheeler streaking upcourt with a beautifully unselfish look for the layin that beat the first quarter buzzer, giving the visiting Fever an eight-point advantage heading into the games 2nd ten minutes.

Veteran pivot Carolyn Swords playing extended minutes for one of the few times this year, sealed her man off to secure a nice offensive rebound, then converted on the putback. Minutes later, Kelsey Plum would turn down an open jumper and find a cutting Swords for another layup, moments later, the Boston College product would convert yet again, as Wilson found her wide open coming down the lane to tie things up at 45.

4th Quarter

Erica Wheeler with a nice corner 3 of her own, which was immediately followed by a Hamby layup.

Indiana followed up with a layup of her own, but couldn’t convert the ensuing foul shot attempt at the three-point play after being fouled.

Hamby made another tough contested shot to put the Aces ahead by one halfway through the fourth, to regain a one-point lead for the home team. After a crafty floater in the lane by McBride gave the Aces a three-point advantage.

Wilson made another patented free throw line jumper to give her thirty on the night, but Kelsey Mitchell answered back for the Fever, bringing the Aces lead back down to one. Wilson got to her spot once again for another jumper from the elbow, and Dupree answered back with a mid-range jumper of her own.

With the Aces protecting a one-point lead, Wilson could not corral a pass from Plum, and Indiana took the lead after Achonwa hauled in the carom off a Dupree miss from deep and scored on the putback. Hamby blew right by a hard closing Achonwa on the ensuing possession to restore the Aces’ one-point lead.

Wilson then showed her ever-expanding arsenal again, making a beautiful up-fake and “show-and-go” move. The made basket gave Wilson 34 huge points on the night, and more importantly, a three-point lead for the Aces with just 34.6 seconds on the clock following a timeout to allow the game officials to determine possession off a loose ball the Fever had the ball and a three-point deficit to overcome with 27.9 to go. They once again made a series of selfless passes, eventually working the ball around to Wheeler, who’s shot from the corner was true, and tied the game up at 84.

Following a Laimbeer timeout, the Aces had the ball and 17.2 seconds on the clock, they were clearly playing to hold for the final shot, and after running pick and roll action featuring Plum and Wilson, Plum’s contested off-balance jumper hit off the back iron, allowing Achonwa to secure the crucial defensive rebound and send the game into OT.

Cambage would open the scoring in the five minute overtime period with a nice seal down low for the easy bunny. The next trip down the floor Wilson would draw yet another foul and head to the line. Wilson converted one out of two free throws to give the Aces a one point lead at 87-86. Cambage made another runner in the lane to push the Aces advantage to 89-86, but Kelsey Mitchell would respond from 3 to tie things up, and then follow that with another to put the visitors up 1. Wilson would respond with another midrange J to pull the Aces within one at 92-91, and then Cambage powered over her defender to put the Aces back up one, at 93-92.

Dupree tough catch and shot jumper, followed by Cambage again overpowering down low. 95-94 Aces

Cambage again, followed by an emphatic celebration 97-94 Aces with under a minute to go.

Wilson went to the line to shoot a pair of free throws with 39.3 left in OT and a chance to seal it, and the second-year star calmly knocked down both shots from the foul line, to give her a new career-high 39 points to go along with a five-point lead, at 94-99.

Following a pair of Dupree free throws, the Aces used their final timeout and

with 19.7 left on the clock in overtime, looked to find McBride on the inbounds play coming out of the timeout, but when she was doubled Jackie Young got the ball in to Cambage who was also swarmed instantly and fouled. The 6’8″ Aussie calmly knocked down both free throws, giving her 12 points in the overtime period alone, and in the game.

The Aces played great individual and team defense on the ensuing possession, forcing a virtually unmakable shot attempt, then each found a body to box out in order to secure the rebound. McBride surprisingly missed the first of two free throws, but still sealed the game with the one make, making the final score 102-97.

 

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