Courtney Vandersloot returns to form after concussion in Sky’s 89-81 victory vs. Liberty

Vandersloot led all scorers with 23 points to go with nine assists and six rebounds.

SHARE Courtney Vandersloot returns to form after concussion in Sky’s 89-81 victory vs. Liberty

In the Sky’s last three losses, they were outscored by a combined 78-53 in the first quarter. So entering the game Friday against the Liberty, general manager/coach James Wade had one point of emphasis: Open the game with a sense of urgency on both ends of the court.

The Sky scored five first-quarter points off six turnovers. But after shooting 7-for-20 from the field, they trailed by three going into the second quarter and still were behind by two at the half.

There were 14 lead changes before the fourth quarter. With just less than three minutes left and the Sky trailing by one, Kahleah Copper willed her way to a rebound and putback under the basket. She missed the ensuing free throw, but the Sky held on to their lead and beat the Liberty 89-81 at Wintrust Arena.

‘‘We know how to play from behind,’’ point guard Courtney Vandersloot said. ‘‘We have enough confidence in ourselves and what we have to offer night in and night out. We get everybody’s best shot.’’

Vandersloot led all scorers with 23 points to go with nine assists and six rebounds — all without a turnover. She returned to the court for the Commissioner’s Cup title game Tuesday after missing four games in the WNBA’s concussion protocol. She struggled against the Aces but returned to form against the Liberty.

Copper had a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Allie Quigley also scored 16 points, and Rebekah Gardner and Azura Stevens added 12 each.

Gardner defending Liberty star Sabrina Ionescu was a defining matchup in the Sky’s loss July 23. In the final moments of that game, Gardner fouled Ionescu for the go-ahead three-point play. On Friday, she limited Ionescu to 16 points — only three in the fourth quarter — and forced her into four turnovers. All told, the Sky scored 17 points off 18 Liberty turnovers.

Members of the National Women’s Soccer League’s San Diego Wave, including national-team star Alex Morgan and teammates Abby Dahlkemper, Kailen Sheridan and Amirah Ali, were in attendance. They are in town to play the Red Stars on Saturday at Soldier Field.

‘‘Honestly, it’s about women supporting women,’’ Dahlkemper said.

Candace Parker missed the game with a non-COVID-related illness. The Sky play the Sun on Sunday in Connecticut, and Wade said he didn’t know whether she will make the trip.

The Sky (22-7) were the first team to secure their place in the postseason, doing so in their 26th game July 20. It was the fastest they had reached 20 victories since 2013. With their berth clinched, Wade said the Sky are paying close attention to the playoff race.

If the Sky maintain their place atop the league standings, they will host the No. 8 seed for the first two games of a best-of-three series. The Liberty (10-18) are still in the playoff hunt, and depending on what happens the rest of the way, the teams could meet again in the first round of the playoffs.

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