After splitting a road trip on the East Coast, the Sky were desperate to get a win at Wintrust Arena before heading west for a trying stretch with playoff implications.
On Wednesday, they overcame a 10-point deficit with a 42-point outburst in the fourth quarter to defeat the Liberty 101-92. It was the Sky’s highest-scoring game of the season.
The win was a huge momentum builder as the team prepares for an important stretch over the next week and a half. After practice Thursday, the Sky will travel to face the Las Vegas Aces on Friday and Los Angeles Sparks on Sunday.
Then, they host the Sparks next Friday and Aces on Aug. 18 at Wintrust Arena.
Both teams are ahead of the Sky in the playoff race and hold a 1-0 lead in the series. If the Sky lose against either team, it could cost them home-court advantage in the playoffs.
“We have to take these games one game at a time and get some revenge on them,” said guard Allie Quigley, who had 22 points. “We lost to them both out west last time, so we have to come with an edge.”
The Sky are in the midst of their best season since 2015. They’re 13-9, which is good for fifth in the WNBA playoff standings.
The Sky’s improvement can be attributed to a lot of factors, including better overall coaching, point guard Courtney Vandersloot’s leadership and the continuous strides of second-year guards Diamond DeShields and Gabby Williams.
But another reason why the Sky have played better this season than last is because of their roster. This is their most well-rounded and disciplined team since their last playoff appearance in 2016, though the bench struggled against the Liberty.
After re-signing Quigley and forward Cheyenne Parker in the offseason, the Sky’s only void in their roster was in the frontcourt. Coach James Wade promptly filled it with the acquisition of power forward Jantel Lavender, who has started every game since the season opener. She finished with 20 points Wednesday.
Wade said he’s confident in his team no matter who’s on the court.
“We’re one of the few that has 12 quality WNBA players that can play on any team,” Wade said before the game. “I really believe that.”
But the Sky’s secondary unit, which has consistently scored 20 or more points this season, faltered Wednesday and allowed the Liberty to go on several scoring spurts, including an 11-2 run to open the second quarter.
“Our starters were solid, our bench kind of struggled against their bench,” Wade said. “[The Liberty] went on a run and they were able to get confident and comfortable.”
The bench got its act together in the second half and became more disruptive, thanks to Parker and guard Kahleah Copper, who have been leaders for the bench.
With the bench struggling, the starters accounted for 82 of the Sky’s 101 points. They also had a season-low eight turnovers.
“It says a lot about our cohesiveness together how we’re coming together at this point in time,” Wade said. “It’s important for us to keep doing that and going from there.”
Note: Guard Jamierra Faulkner, who missed parts of the last two seasons and this year due to separate ACL injuries, left the game in the fourth quarter after running into a blindside screen. Wade didn’t have an update on her condition after the game.