Mercury Rising: Ready to fight past the Storm
The Phoenix Mercury are a side with a deep roster lined with dominant strike weapons who are ready to fight for the WNBA championship. But before they can, they face a do or die game five clash with the Seattle Storm.
The Pick and Roll spoke with the Mercury's versatile and aggressive point guard Yvonne ‘Vonnie’ Turner ahead of the must-win game 5.
Turner has played on Australian shores as well as game time in Ecuador, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Russia, Spain and Turkey also.
At the age of 27, Turner first stepped onto a WNBA court with the Mercury in 2017, becoming one of the oldest debutantes in WNBA history. Not only has she grasped the opportunity with both hands, but she continues to showcase the immense skill set and immense experience that she brings to any side.
We discussed what it meant to play the sport at this level, as well as playing for Australian head coach Sandy Brondello.
"It means everything in the world that a female basketball athlete can dream of," shared Turner. "To play in my country, and with the greats I do, is truly a blessing. Merc is a great organisation and they took the chance on me, and I owe nothing but my all, my love, grit, sweat and tears."
The Mecury boast Diana Taurasi and standout centre Brittney Griner - two of the greatest female players to ever play the game - as well Australian Opals Steph Talbot and Leilani Mitchell. The side is also coached by former WNBA star and now Opals head coach Sandy Brondello. I asked Turner what it was like playing with stars the caliber of Taurasi and Griner.
"Everyday I am grateful to wake up and work, learn, and contribute with them," Turner explained. "I learn a lot from the experiences they’ve gone through, and still do, and to be acknowledged for my talents by them is an awesome feeling."
In what is bracing to be one of the games of the season, Phoenix returns to Seattle to take on the Storm for a spot in the WNBA Finals. It will be a tough mission at KeyArena, where the Storm won the first two games, both 91-87, with the second in overtime. The game plan is simple according to Turner.
"Play hard, play smart, play together and win."
The Mercury fought back from a 16-point deficit early in the third quarter to win game four 86-84, forcing the elimination game with tip-off for Wednesday at 8:00am AEST. Griner led Phoenix with 29 points, DeWanna Bonner had 27 for her ninth consecutive 20-point game while Taurasi added 16. Stewart led Seattle with 22, Natasha Howard had 14, Alysha Clark 13 and Jewell Loyd 11.
The playoffs so far have had a strong flavour of Australia throughout. Not only is the Mercury coached by Brondello, but their roster is includes Mitchell, Talbot and director of player development and performance Penny Taylor. On their path to this series Phoenix eliminated a Dallas Wings team led by one of our nations greatest exports in Liz Cambage.
Needless to say that the series has been intense.
"Game 4 was a nail bitter as well as game 1 and 2," Turner added. "This series has been some great basketball, with some ups and downs and I think we have our power back."
This game is a first in WNBA history; with the Mercury becoming the first team to force a Game 5 in a best-of-five playoff series after trailing 2-0. The series winner will face the winner of the Atlanta Dream and Washington Mystics series which is also currently tied at 2-all.
Two-time WNBA champion Sue Bird has been cleared to play with a face mask after suffering a broken nose at the end of the second quarter in the last game. Seattle have a potent side themselves, pushing this series as far as it can go and also including dangerous and talented pieces including current league MVP Breanna Stewart. This is a fact Turner and her Mercury side does not concede.
This Seattle side also continues the Australian streak with star small forward Sami Whitcomb who became a citizen of our country earlier this year with standout seasons with the Perth Lynx.
"You know, they have their big three and we have our big three," outlined Turner. "Hands down Storm is a great team, the game will come down to who will execute better."
Turner was confident that her Mercury is ready to rise beyond the Storm.
"We’re not done yet. We’re going to make history. We are going to put our heart on the line and get it done together."