It has been a process for the young Seattle Storm team and they got to reap the rewards on Sunday night.
After watching a 10-point lead be wiped away in the fourth quarter, the Storm battled back and were led by Jewell Loyd and Sue Bird as it was able to pull away for the 72-63 win over San Antonio.
Storm Head Coach Jenny Boucek said, “We’ve had a lot of close games this year and it comes down to having the confidence to make plays because it’s not always going to go like it’s drawn up or predicted. We’re starting to have players make more plays. I thought we had several down the stretch.”
The win snapped a short two-game slide and moved the Storm within two games of Los Angeles for the fourth playoff spot in the Western Conference.
With San Antonio leading 37-34 with 8:28 in the third, it was the pair of Ramu Tokashiki and Loyd that took over the game.
Loyd said, “It’s definitely a team effort. We won this one, we came down had great veterans who have been in this position before and their motivation and their leadership helped us finish this game.”
“Jewell was definitely on point,” said Bird. “Whether it be having to guard one of the better players on their team, on offense being the aggressor for us. If I had to pick a play that was the most important, it was when she kind of tried to do that reverse layup but by hitting the rim, it got us a new shot clock, Tok was able to get the rebound, and that was a big possession. I don’t know if we scored on the next play but it was huge just to be able to use another 24 seconds in our favor. That just shows you her activity, her nose for the ball. It tells the story of her game tonight.”
A free throw and a layup from Tokashiki tied the game at 37 and then Seattle went back to the rookie on the post as she hit the turnaround jumper to give the Storm a two-point lead. Loyd was next up and she scored the next six, including a three-point play, to push the advantage to eight. Loyd scored a team-high 18 points, including eight in the third, on 7-for-10 shooting.
Seattle went up by as much as 10 in the quarter and took an eight-point lead into the fourth. San Antonio started the fourth on a 10-2 to tie the game at 55 and it was capped by a breakaway layup from Danielle Robinson. The Stars’ point guard had 11 points on the night.
With the Stars up 59-57, Alysha Clark scored four straight points including a runner to the glass to give Seattle a two-point lead. Jayne Appel tied it back up with a jumper but, on the next possession, Bird hung in the lane and hit the floater to put Seattle back up 63-61. After a timeout, Clark added on with a turnaround hook in the lane to put the Storm ahead by four.
San Antonio cut it to two and then Bird brought her late game experience to the table and hit a three with 41.7 left to move ahead by five. She scored seven of her 13 points in the fourth.
Seattle held San Antonio to 35.7 percent shooting in the second half. With 28.6 left, the 5-foot-10 Loyd won a jump ball over the 6-foot-5 Appel and Tokashiki recovered to the ball to seal the victory.
Seattle shot 53 percent in the first quarter but found itself trailing after one due to five turnovers, which resulted in nine San Antonio points. Stars forward Kayla McBride scored 13 of San Antonio’s 19 points in the first quarter.
“Every game, I think we find another piece of our identity. We have to be the smartest team and the toughest team every night in order to win games,” McBride said. “We’re just building. These last couple games are going to be tough. I think we play L.A., Seattle and Tulsa like 80 percent of the time. We’re still fighting for a playoff spot and still have a chance. We have to take this game, learn from it and move on.”
Seattle went up by as much as four in the first when Seattle got a jumper from Loyd and a pair of free throws from Tokashiki to take a 12-8 lead. The game went back and forth in the first half as it saw 13 lead changes and six ties.
Seattle will get a few days off and will return to action on Friday when it takes on Indiana at 7 p.m.