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Wintrust Arena was loud and proud for the Chicago Sky on Wednesday night as the team set a franchise record for the largest margin of victory against the New York Liberty in an 83-50 victory.
The 33-point victory was the Sky’s best since their 107-75 win again Seattle on August 29, 2021. This game was quite the balm, and a welcome turnaround after their loss to the Los Angeles Sparks in last Friday’s season opener, where the blame was placed on an abundance of turnovers, permissive fouls that led to free throws, and tired players that ran out of gas in the fourth quarter.
The Sky came ready to win and the Liberty immediately noticed.
“I think their aggressiveness — the hedging, the hedge switching, their length, they rotated well,” Liberty head coach Sandy Brondello said. “We missed a lot of shots early on and were hesitant. Chicago was ready to play.”
Rebekah Gardner excels in debut
Rebekah Gardner notably made her highly anticipated first start in the WNBA tonight, as a 31-year-old rookie. She finished with 14 points, four rebounds, an assist and two steals on six for nine shooting.
Gardner made the first basket of the game and looked the part of a seasoned WNBA player just four minutes into the game. A product of the UCLA, Gardner has played overseas during professional career. GM/Head Coach James Wade knew of Gardner’s basketball acumen, and saw her fitting in well on the Sky.
“I want her to be her,” Wade said in his pregame press conference. “I want her to be comfortable. She’s here, and I think once everyone sees her, they’ll be comfortable with her in a Sky uniform.”
Gardner’s performance was rather impressive, and had an immediate influence throughout the organization.
“14 points? That’s a pretty good debut,” Candace Parker told reporters in the postgame. “Maybe ROY?”
“Are you trying to be the oldest rookie of the year?” asked someone in the presser, and Gardner laughed heartily at the gentle joke. For the 2020–2021 season, Gardner had signed to play with Uni Girona Club de Basquet for the Liga Dia season.
“This group of girls is the nicest group I’ve ever played with. The girls were welcoming. James was welcoming,” Gardner said.
Sky still not fielding a complete roster
Chemistry was an issue that was brought up in the opener; still yet to arrive are Kahleah Copper and Julie Allemand, who are wrapping up commitments overseas. Allie Quigley missed her second straight game as she recovers from a knee injury.
“It takes time for any tem, but with a lot of moving parts, we’re not going to make excuses,” Parker said. ” More time together is going to help it, and that’s what it was. We had another two practices together. We were trying to thread the needle in game one.”
New addition Emma Meesseman was named player of the game, with 10 points, four assists, and six rebounds.
“She was really good tonight – the one thing about Emma is that she’s so selfless,” Wade said in postgame comments. “We want her to be more aggressive, but she still had a good game. She passes the ball well. Nine assists in the first two games. She led us in deflections … she does things the right way, and she plays for her teammates. She’s not flashy, but she’s efficient. She’s coachable.”
“It sucks guarding her,” Candace Parker said of Meesseman. “Her IQ…the chemistry is just going to get better. We have a number of quarterbacks capable of making plays.”
Evans stays hot
Dana Evans also had another notably strong performance, after a scorching 24 point career game in the season opener. Evans was 3-of-3 with her three point attempts, and found Parker on an assist that led to a hype post-shot celebration, where Parker grabbed Evans by the waist. Evans finished with 15 points, three assists, and four rebounds.
“I’ve seen her evolution in practice,” Parker said, accompanied by her son, Airr Larry Petrakov Parker.
“Do you agree, Airr?” Parker asked her son, who say happily on her lap.” Airr cooed happily, adding his expert analysis.
“He agrees,” Parker finished.
Gardner scored the first basket of the game at the 9:41 mark of the first quarter, and the Sky never surrendered the lead for the entire game. According to Sky media relations, this is the least amount of points the Sky have given up in franchise history. The previous low was 54 points on July 13, 2011. The key runs were strong throughout the game; the Sky outscored the Liberty 20-8 in the second period to take a 36-17 halftime lead, then the Sky opened the third quarter on a 13-4 run to go take their biggest lead of the game of 28 points, 49-21.
The Liberty shot 33.3 percent from the field for the game, with Han Xu being their top scorer with 10 points The Sky had only seven turnovers after 25 in their season opener versus the Sparks.
“That was the biggest takeaway from the last game, don’t turn it over, and don’t foul,” Parker summarized.
The Sky will now embark on a three-game road trip to face Minnesota, Seattle, and Washington respectively; they’ll return home on May 24 to face the Indiana Fever, where they’ll receive some new jewelry – their 2021 championship rings.
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