With a trip to the WNBA Finals on the line, Allie Quigley came through when her Chicago Sky teammates needed her the most.
Quigley scored 24 points and hit several big shots to help lead the Sky to a 75-62 victory over the Indiana Fever on Wednesday night in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals.
She had 10 of her points in a key second quarter stretch that gave Chicago the lead for good. And with the Fever still hanging on late in the fourth quarter, Quigley drained a 3-pointer and hit free throws that led to a Sky celebration on Indiana's home court, ending the coaching career of Hall of Fame Fever coach Lin Dunn.
"It came down to hitting shots in the moment, relishing the moment," said Quigley, who was the WNBA sixth woman of the year. "I just wanted to be aggressive and if it was going to be my night to be the big player, I was ready for it."
Now the Sky, who made the playoffs for the first time ever last season before getting knocked out by Indiana in the first round, will face Phoenix in the Finals which start on Sunday.
Chicago dropped the first game in Indiana before winning the last two. Quigley said the Sky's game plan was simple for the decisive game — contain Tamika Catchings and avoid falling behind early. They succeeded on both accounts, limiting Catchings to nine points and using a pressuring defense from the outset to prevent Indiana from finding an early offensive flow - or any flow.
Indiana struggled to put together solid offensive stretches outside the one that put the Fever ahead 17-16 on a Marissa Coleman 3-pointer with 7:06 left before halftime. That was the Fever's only lead of the night, and they held it for just 14 seconds.
Executing the game plan early set the tone for the Sky. But Chicago wasn't overly impressive outside keeping Catchings at bay and riding its defense to a victory.
The Sky simply took advantage of 11 Indiana turnovers that they turned into 14 points, and they also capitalized on timely mental errors from the Fever.
On the final play of the first half, Courtney Vandersloot scored with 1.3 second to go on a layup in transition off an Indiana giveaway. That pushed Chicago's advantage to 37-29 at the break.
Chicago was able to maintain its lead in the third quarter, despite not having Elena Delle Donne on the floor for most of the period. She began getting attention from the Sky trainer with 5:15 left in the first half, and a lingering back injury sidelined her to begin the second half.
Even with Delle Donne on the bench, Indiana's struggles continued. Trailing 39-33, Briann January committed a foul that lead to two Tamera Young free throws with 4:09 left in the third, stalling the momentum Indiana appeared to be gaining.
Chicago's Epiphanny Prince found herself converting two free throws after a clear path foul was called against Indiana. And with 1:51 left in the third quarter, Indiana's Maggie Lucas was called for a foul against Quigley as the shot clock expired.
"Everything for us seemed to be a struggle," Dunn said. "Slow defensive rotations, a bad pass, not being ready to knock down open shots and hesitation."
While the Sky prepares for a Game 1 showdown Sunday at Phoenix, Dunn and the Fever are left wondering how they dropped the final two games of the series and missed an opportunity to advance to the WNBA Finals for a third time.
"(Chicago) played with a sense of urgency," Dunn said. "I could sense that in them, a desperation to get to the finals. And I'm excited about the Chicago Sky representing the Eastern Conference."