CHICAGO — Candace Parker returned home to bring Chicago a WNBA championship. She did just that leading the Sky to the franchise’s first title.
Allie Quigley scored 26 points and Parker had 16 points, 13 rebounds and five assists and Chicago beat Phoenix 80-74 on to win the best-of-five WNBA Finals three games to one.
“We were down nine, down 11, and we stayed with it,” Parker said. “So proud of this group.”
Courtney Vandersloot added 10 points and 15 assists for the Sky, who rallied from a 72-65 deficit with 4:42 left. Chicago scored the next nine points to take a two-point lead on Stefanie Dolson’s layup. She added another basket to make it 76-72 with 45.8 seconds left.
Phoenix’s Diana Taurasi was fouled on the next possession shooting a 3-pointer and made the first two free throws, but she missed the third.
Vandersloot then scored in the lane to seal the victory, setting off the celebration. As the final buzzer sounded, Parker sprinted to the corner of the court and hugged her family with tears in her eyes.
It was a full-circle moment for Parker, who returned home to Chicago this season after spending 13 years with Los Angeles. She continually had been called the Sky’s missing piece throughout the playoffs, a label she proved accurate many times during Chicago’s run, winning the title as a six seed.
“It feels amazing. My high school coach is here,” Parker said. “I know Pat’s (Summitt, her late college coach at Tennessee) watching. Got the whole city here. We got the whole city here. We are champions for life now.”
Brittney Griner was a focal point of Phoenix’s offense early. The seven-time All-Star finished the game with 28 points, 18 of which came in the first half. Griner and guard Skylar Diggins-Smith helped lead a 9-0 run to finish the second quarter and give Phoenix a 44-37 edge at halftime.
Parker initially had trouble getting into a rhythm offensively, going 1-for-6 from the floor with just four points by the end of the first half.
Chicago’s Kahleah Copper, who was a force in the Finals, earned MVP honors.
The Sky drew a sellout crowd at 10,387-seat Wintrust Arena despite the Chicago Bears hosting the rival Green Bay Packers down the street at Soldier Field. Chance the Rapper was once again in attendance to support his hometown team.
––– By CASEY DROTTAR