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View from top is a refreshing change for Sky

Seattle Storm's TanishWright center takes running leap shoot as Chicago Sky's TamerYoung left SwCash defend during first half WNBA basketball

Seattle Storm's Tanisha Wright, center, takes a running leap to shoot as Chicago Sky's Tamera Young, left, and Swin Cash defend during the first half of a WNBA basketball game Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

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Updated: September 8, 2013 11:47PM



Drake’s song “Started from the Bottom” might as well be the Sky’s theme song.

When the Sky beat the New York Liberty 82-64 on Aug. 23 to clinch a playoff spot for the first time in franchise history, forward Tamera Young said she and her teammates all sang along to the song’s chorus that resonates deeply with the team’s eight-year journey to their first playoff berth.

For Sky veterans such as Young and center Sylvia Fowles, sitting in the top spot couldn’t feel any sweeter.

The Sky, which already had clinched the top playoff seed in the Eastern Conference, improved to 22-9 with a 93-79 victory over the host Washington Mystics on Sunday.

“It’s actually true because we did, we started from the bottom and now we’re in first place,” Young said. “It was a sigh of relief, it was a great feeling.”

Young, who was traded to the Sky late in the 2009 season, and Fowles, who was drafted as the second pick in the 2008 WNBA draft, have experienced several seasons of narrowly missing the playoffs.

“Those first five seasons are now like a blur to me, because now myself and the team have been having so much success,” said Fowles, who won her second consecutive conference player of the month award Wednesday. “Those first five seasons were just a steppingstone to get to this point. It all was a lesson.”

In 2009, the Sky led the Detroit Shock by 19 points at the half of the last regular-season game. The team started selling playoff tickets during the game but was outscored by 22 points in the third quarter and lost, dashing its playoff dreams.

The Sky again looked like a playoff team early last season, getting off to a team-record 7-1 start. But injuries hit and they were never able to win more than two games in a row for the rest of the season.

“I felt like each year we were always missing something,” Young said. “You can’t really describe or say what that something was, but you knew it was something because we would miss the playoffs by only a few games.”

That ‘‘something’’ may have been the Sky’s leading scorer and All-Star rookie Elena Delle Donne, who earned her third Rookie of the Month award last week.

Fowles, who leads the league with 11.4 rebounds per game, said Delle Donne’s offensive prowess (18.1 ppg) has given her a chance to focus on defense.

“With the weapons we have on our team, I don’t feel like I am obligated to score,” Fowles said. “I just got back to what’s been good for me since I started playing basketball: playing defense and getting rebounds. That’s been my focus, just rebounding more and getting more involved on the defensive end.”

Just three regular-season games are left and Fowles, who owns two Olympic Gold medals and four Final Four appearances with LSU, is focused on achieving the last goal on her list: a WNBA title.

“That’s the only thing I need to check off my list,” Fowles said “This definitely would complete my check-off list and my résumé.”

Email: kkahler@suntimes.com

Twitter: @kalynkahler



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