WNBA: Allen's cameos a highlight before All-Star break
It was a tough final week before the All-Star break for the Aussies in the WNBA, with Bec Allen’s cameos off the bench in two New York Liberty wins the highlights of the last seven days, although Sami Whitcomb provided a brief flash of brilliance in Seattle's win over Atlanta.
The Liberty’s week started less than promisingly, allowing Chicago to break free in the final quarter as Stefanie Dolson finished with 23 points to condemn New York to a 78-68 loss. Allen was used sparingly, hitting her only field goal attempt of the game to finish with two points in just six minutes of action.
Things improved vastly for both the Liberty and Allen in their second game of the week against Washington. An electric first quarter saw the New York side open up a 30-14 lead and an outstanding combined effort culminated in an 85-55 win, despite no player scoring more than Sugar Rodgers’ 15 points. Allen saw 17 minutes of game time off the bench, hitting 3-7 from the field to finish with 8 points in the win.
New York made it two wins out of three in their final game of the week, with a 29-13 third quarter proving the catalyst for a 96-80 win. Tina Charles dominated the paint for New York with 28 points and 17 rebounds, whilst Allen again chipped in off the bench. The Aussie wing was afforded 10 minutes of playing time, shooting an efficient 3-5 from the field to tally 7 points in her limited time on court.
Sami Whitcomb and Seattle picked up a win and a loss in their two games this week to sit at 9-11 as they hover around the final playoff spot going into the All-Star break. Losing to Atlanta would have put the Storm behind the eight ball in the playoff push, but the Seattle side stormed home to complete a 90-84 win courtesy of 20 point outings from Breanna Stewart and Crystal Langhorne. The starters did the majority of the work for the Storm, scoring all bar 11 points, but Whitcomb was able to add a vital 5 consecutive points during the third quarter that helped drag the Storm back from 7 down to tie things up before going on to secure victory.
The Storm looked primed to pick up another win as they took a 29-11 first quarter lead over Chicago, but the Sky returned serve with a 30-13 second quarter to eventually overrun Seattle and take a 94-83 win in an exciting contest. Stewart again led the Storm with 25 points, whilst Whitcomb again added 5 points, also tallying 4 rebounds in her 15 minutes on court.
By far the toughest week of all was that of the Australian trio of Steph Talbot, Leilani Mitchell, and Cayla George of the Phoenix Mercury. With two games against the ladder-leading Minnesota Lynx forming the first part of a three-game week, and star center Brittney Griner going down injured in the first of those games, the Mercury were up against it from the outset.
The Lynx dominated the opening half of the first game between the two teams in Phoenix, leading by 17 points at halftime on their way to an 88-71 win. Steph Talbot added five points in 19 minutes for the Mercury to be the best performed of the Aussies. Leilani Mitchell added just two points in 21 minutes, whilst Cayla George failed to tally any points in her 9 minutes on court.
The Mercury took a surprising first half lead in the return fixture in Minnesota, but with Griner out injured and Diana Taurasi rested, Phoenix were unable to hold on in the second half and the Lynx dealt the Mercury a second loss in three days. Talbot again started for Phoenix, with herself and Leilani Mitchell each contributing two points, whilst Cayla George again failed to add to the score.
Phoenix would have been expected to rebound against Indiana, but the Fever had other ideas and inflicted a third loss for the Mercury in a week, as ex-Phoenix star Candice Dupree added 17 points for Indiana in their win. Taurasi returned for Phoenix to top score with 34 points, while Talbot retained her position in the starting lineup, finishing with 4 points and 3 rebounds. Mitchell added 5 points in 20 minutes off the bench, with George tallying 4 points.