“The crowd was great. If you didn’t enjoy this basketball game, you don’t enjoy basketball.” -Aces’ coach Bill Laimbeer
LAS VEGAS – A’ja Wilson, playing in just her second game back after missing the previous nine with an ankle injury, overcame a shaky start in which she made just two of her first 10 shots, suddenly came alive in the overtime period, scoring nine of the team’s eleven points, missing just one shot from the field in the OT period. None was bigger than her final basket of the game a contested runner in the lane, that put the Aces up by 3, effectively icing the victory for the home team.
Wilson’s fellow All-Star and frontcourt mate, Liz Cambage recorded 19 points (on 9-for-17 shooting from the field) none of which was bigger than her basket with 22.2 seconds to go in the fourth quarter, when she drove, absorbed contact and made a contested runner in the lane to tie the game at 73. Cambage then missed the subsequent free throw and was called for a lane violation, likely realizing that her attempt from the foul line was well short.
Following her missed a free throw and lane violation, Phoenix inbounded the ball with 22.2 on the clock following a timeout and set up a final shot which was defended well by the Aces, who forced a tough shot and then secured the rebound. However, the play was stopped as Bonner was caught inadvertently by an elbow, and was writhing around on the ground in obvious pain for several minutes, blood leaking from her nose. Moments later as Bonner was still being attended to, an offensive foul was inexplicably called for an offensive foul, giving the Mercury the ball back, and another opportunity to win the game. But the Aces D was once again solid in forcing a contested last attempt at the basket that failed the find the mark.
Phoenix head coach Sandy Brondello Mercury squad was playing shorthanded as forwards Alanna Smith and Sancho Lyttle, as well as guard Essence Carson were all out with injuries. Leading scorer and former League MVP Diana Taurasi was also inactive, serving a one-game suspension for leaving the bench.
Las Vegas would see their lead balloon up to points in the third quarter, as Kayla McBride, Kelsey Plum, and Jackie Young were aggressive in pushing the pace and unselfishly finding each other on the break. However, Brondello’s squad was nothing if not resilient, cutting the lead down to just two points on an improbable 30-foot prayer by DeWanna Bonner that found the bottom of the net as the shot clock expired, meaning the Aces headed into the fourth quarter protecting a slim 58-56 lead.
Bonner would once again strike on an eerily similar play midway through the 4th, as she just barely beat the shot clock, again launching from a good 4-5 feet behind the arc and finding nothing but the bottom of the net to put the Mercury up by one, at 65-64.
Phoenix was lead offensively throughout the game, and in particular in the fourth by Griner, Bonner and diminutive yet mercurial point guard Leilani Mitchell.
Jackie Young finally ended the Aces’ scoring drought by knocking down a 3 with just under four minutes to play. Following that, the Aces had numerous prime scoring opportunities, but Jackie Young, Plum, McBride, and Wilson would all miss multiple times on layups from in close, that what would normally be gimmes.
Rookie point guard Jackie Young, continued to show that she has become more confident and assertive, and had perhaps her best game of the year, narrowly missing a triple-double with eight points to go along with 10 rebounds and 10 assists.
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