Sky clinches first-ever postseason berth with win over N.Y.
By SARAH TROTTO For Sun-Times Media August 23, 2013 11:02PM
Updated: September 25, 2013 6:17AM
Sylvia Fowles might have worn the biggest smile of all.
The wait is over after eight years.
The Sky clinched its first playoff berth in the team’s eight-year history by beating the New York Liberty 82-64 on Friday at Allstate Arena.
Fowles has played six of those eight losing seasons with the Sky (19-8).
“It feels good, just thinking about it from the first training camp and the first preseason game, knowing what you have around you, all these good players we’re surrounded by,” said Fowles, who scored a team-high 14 points and grabbed seven rebounds. “[It’s] just making it all so much better to be on this team, to have this opportunity with this group of young women.”
The Sky has loftier goals than just making the playoffs. They lead the Eastern Conference by 3½ games. West-leading Minnesota is 19-7.
“The playoffs is the first step,” said Swin Cash, who added 11 points. “Now we put ourselves in a position where we can have the best record in the East, best overall record.
“If we win the rest of our games, we control our destiny.”
Last season, the Sky finished a game short of a playoff spot.
“You can’t even sum up last year,” Fowles said.
“I’m just very happy and very excited.”
The Sky had little time to celebrate. The players had a 5 a.m. wake-up call Saturday to travel to second-place Atlanta.
“It’s huge. I don’t want to minimize it, but I also understand it’s the first step, not the final step,” Sky coach Pokey Chatman said.
The Sky outscored New York 29-12 in the third quarter to take control and played reserves in the fourth. All-Star rookie Elena Delle Donne scored 11 points. Courtney Vandersloot added 10.
Chicago native Cappie Pondexter finished with a season-low three points on 1-for-8 shooting for New York (10-16). She missed the Liberty’s last game with a left heel bruise. Plenette Pierson led New York with 25 points.
“She didn’t have any kind of rhythm for the whole first three quarters,” Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer said. “Trying to work her way into it, she hasn’t practiced for two weeks.”
The Liberty took their first lead, 27-26, with 3:47 left before halftime. Laimbeer then picked up a technical after complaining to the officials. The Sky finished the half on a 12-6 run to take a 38-33 halftime lead and didn’t look back.
“They have very good size across the board. They’re a fine rebounding team,” Laimbeer said.