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Two players who started their basketball careers in high school in Illinois returned to Chicago on Sunday afternoon, and delivered the Sky’s first-ever WNBA championship.

Chicago 80 (Quigley 26 Parker 16 Vandersloot 10 Copper 10) defeated Phoenix 74 (Griner 28 Taurasi 16 Diggins-Smith 16).
Quarter by quarter: 25-28, 12-16, 17-19, 26-11.
Chicago wins series 3-1 (best of 5).

In front of a sold-out crowd of 10,378 at Chicago’s Wintrust Arena, Candace Parker and Allie Quigley led the Sky to a 80-74 victory over the Phoenix Mercury, clinching the series 3-1. Quigley attended high school at Joliet, Illinois, before attending college at DePaul. Parker had also attended high school at Napierville before spending most of her professional career at the Los Angeles Sparks.

The Sky had previously made the WNBA Finals just once, losing to the Mercury in 2014.

The shooting woes that affected Phoenix in game 3 were nowhere to be seen in the first half, with the Mercury shooting at over 50% for much of the opening stanza. Brittney Griner, who had been restricted in scoring in the previous game, opened strongly, hitting 5 of her first 6 field goal attempts. Teammate Diana Taurasi continued to struggle from the field early; Taurasi also picked up a technical foul after protesting a non-call in the first quarter, and two offensive fouls in the second.

Poor ball security also continued to plague the Mercury, who gave up 7 turnovers in the opening half, keeping the Sky in the game. A three-pointer at the quarter-time buzzer by Sophie Cunningham was the difference for the visitors, who led 28-25 at the first break.

The Sky were able to keep Griner quiet for the opening minutes of the second period, and took the lead at 28-27 on a Stefanie Dolson layup. The lead would change hands a number of times before a 9-0 run by Phoenix, capped off by a three-point play by Griner, pushed the visitors’ lead out to 7.

Phoenix continued their scoring run in the third period, with back-to-back triples from Taurasi and two pullups from Skylar Diggins-Smith extending their lead to 14 points with just over 3 minutes left in the term.

Sky veteran Parker exhorted her teammates to calm down- “we’re going for home runs, we just need singles!”- and following a time-out Chicago went on a 9-0 run of their own. Late free throws to Taurasi and a Diggins-Smith layup after a poor transition turnover with just seconds left hurt the Sky, and Phoenix steadied to lead by 9 at the final change.

Chicago opened the fourth quarter on fire from the perimeter, with back-to-back three-pointers from Quigley reducing the margin to 5 after just 90 seconds of play. After a Griner trip to the free-throw line, Quigley hit another trey, her fifth of the game. Turnovers continued to pose a problem for both teams, and nerves may have started to affect the Mercury as they missed three straight layups in successive possessions. It would be Chicago who recovered first, with a layup by Kahleah Copper and a three-pointer from Parker tying the score with 1:57 remaining.

A layup to Stephanie Dolson with 1:22 left would see the Sky take their first lead in the second half, forcing a time-out from Mercury coach Sandy Brondello. Dolson would extend the Sky’s margin on the following play, a pull-up jumper after a Vandersloot drive extending Chicago’s lead to 4 with 45.8 seconds left on the clock.

After Taurasi made 2 of 3 free throws on the next play, Courtney Vandersloot would restore the two-shot margin with a turnaround in the key. A rushed Diggins-Smith floater was rebounded by Dolson, and with no time-outs remaining, Phoenix was forced to foul to stop the clock. Two more free throws to Vandersloot would set the final margin at 6 points, and fittingly it was home-town hero Parker who would be holding the ball as time expired.

“Everything this team went through this year prepared us for this,” Parker told ESPN after the game.

“It feels amazing. My high school coach is here, we got the whole city here.”

Quigley was the Sky’s leading scorer on the day, with 26 points on 9/14 shooting. Parker finished with 16 points, while Vandersloot and Copper had 10 apiece. Vandersloot fell just shy of a triple-double, recording 15 assists and 9 rebounds. Copper was also named Finals Most Valuable Player, averaging 17 points and 6 rebounds over the course of the series.

Griner finished with 28 points and 7 rebounds to lead the Mercury, with Taurasi and Diggins-Smith adding 16 points each to the tally.