Travel-weary Sky show resilience in close loss to Sun

The Sky refused to use their travel woes as an excuse against the WNBA-leading Sun.

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Courtney Vandersloot scored 22 points and dished 11 assists in the Sky’s loss to the Sun on Tuesday.

NBAE/Getty Images via Chicago Sky

The Sky were the victims of a travel nightmare on their way to Uncasville, Connecticut, to play the Sun.

While most pro athletes enjoy the luxury of charter flights to road games, the WNBA’s collective-bargaining agreement forces teams to fly commercial.

Most of the Sky’s players endured a brutal 14-hour travel ordeal because of cancelled and delayed flights. After getting to O’Hare at 1 p.m. Monday, more than three-quarters of the players didn’t fly out until after midnight and didn’t get to their hotel rooms until 4:45 a.m. Tuesday.

Coach James Wade cancelled shootaround to allow his players to get extra rest.

‘‘It affects you a lot,’’ forward Cheyenne Parker told the Sun-Times in a phone interview after the Sky’s 100-94 loss to the Sun. ‘‘I know for myself and a couple of other players, we swell up in our legs and feet when we travel.

‘‘Being active, having to run up and down a court the next day, it can really play a toll. Thankfully no one got hurt tonight, but it’s definitely not something we should do. It’s not healthy.’’

Still, the Sky (11-9) refused to use their travel woes as an excuse. Out of the gates, they looked like an energized team. They played an up-tempo and physical game against the Sun before falling apart in the second and third quarters.

After trailing by 21 points in the second half, the Sky turned things around in the fourth quarter. Their scoring efforts were led by All-Star guards Allie Quigley and Courtney Vandersloot, who scored 24 and 22 points, respectively.

With just more than a minute left, Vandersloot cut the Sky’s deficit to four points. Ultimately, the Sky couldn’t get the stops they needed and lost.

Though the result wasn’t what the Sky wanted, Vandersloot said she was proud of their effort and said it was the mentality the team needs to play with if it wants to make the playoffs.

‘‘We’re never going to give up,’’ said Vandersloot, who also handed out 11 assists. ‘‘We’ve done it over and over again. We’ve erased 20-point deficits, 10-point deficits. It’s kind of inside of us; we know it. We’re never going to stop fighting.

‘‘Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough tonight. Maybe if we didn’t dig ourselves such a big hole, we could’ve come out with a win. But we’re keeping our heads up high and learning from this, and we still feel good about where we are and what we did tonight.’’

That’ll be key in the Sky’s final 14 games, eight of which will be on the road.

The playoff race is as jumbled as it has been in recent memory. Entering play Tuesday, only 3½ games separated the top eight teams in the standings. After the game, the Sky was in fifth place.

Parker said she is confident the Sky will bounce back from the loss.

‘‘We showed a lot of heart, and we can build on this,’’ Parker said.

‘‘Imagine if we did get here at a reasonable hour, if we did have shootaround and have a chance to prepare and get shots up. . . . This just shows the capability this team has.’’

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