By DIANE XAVIER
The Dallas Examiner
It was a back and forth battle between the Dallas Wings and defending WNBA champion Seattle Storm in the Wings home opener at College Park Arena in Arlington on May 22. The game went to overtime with the Storm pulling away with a 100-97 victory.
Despite the Wings being down in the first quarter, 27-23, the team was able to stand neck in neck with the Storm throughout the game, even taking a 45-44 lead at halftime. The game ended up in a 86-86 tie at the end of regulation. However, the Storm’s strong defense and veteran experience helped them eventually get the victory.
“Well, we were never really leading,” Wings Head Coach Vickie Johnson said. “Seattle is a championship team. We have to make sure we do the little things. We have to make sure we stick to the game plan. Help when we are supposed to help. Just those things we have to do a better job of as a team.”
The Storm were led by Forward Breanna Stewart who had 36 points, 11 rebounds, 5 blocks and 3 assists.
“Three players of the Storm had 75 of their 100 points,” Johnson said. “If we don’t do the little things, it is just very important, late game, last four minutes of the game, overtime we have to do everything right, or Seattle will punish us like they did tonight.”
The Wings were able to stay in the game thanks to the high scoring performance of Wings Forward Marina Mabry who scored 26 points and shot a three pointer from downtown that gave Dallas a 93-90 lead with 3:09 left in the ballgame.
“We got Seattle, one of the best teams, down to the end and then I think our youth showed a little bit at the end,” Mabry said. “We have to get poised and get through the game and keep pushing forward. I was mentally being aggressive and knowing that my team needs me because we are down Allisha Gray right now, so I had to step up.”
The Wings were without teammates Gray, Satou Sabally and Awak Kuier for this game. Sabally and Kuier are playing overseas and will arrive late to the team this season and Gray is getting ready to qualify for the United States Women’s 3×3 National Team’s Olympics.
Johnson said she is proud of her team despite the loss.
“We still did a lot of great things because at the same time they only shot 28% from the three, low 40’s from the two and we out rebounded them by seven so overall we did a good job,” Johnson said. “We took care of the basketball for the most part. We only had 16 turnovers. We shot 45%. It is just that down the stretch, we had too many turnovers, and we didn’t get stops. They have to stay disciplined in the game plan offensively and defensively for us to be successful as a team. But they played hard.”
Mobley said the team has a few things it needs to focus on to improve their game.
“We can’t dwell on this game, we are going to learn from it and we are going to move forward,” Mobley said. “We are too young to be able to just stay in that place. We have to learn and we have to move on both sides of the basketball because our spacing was off offensively and we were still able to score.”
Wings Forward and veteran Isabelle Harrison, who scored 16 points, agreed.
“We held our own tonight and I think if we just cleaned up a few mistakes, we would of came out with the win,” Harrison said.
The Wings were led by guard Arike Ogunbowale who had 28 points.
“We are young and we just have to learn how to finish the game and grow from it,” Ogunbowale said. “The sky’s the limit.”
The home opener had a limited capacity seating of 1,500 due to the COVID-19 restrictions, but was still a sellout. The game also marked the return of the Wings to College Park Arena. Up until Saturday’s home opener, the team has not played at home since Sep. 8, 2019 as the pandemic hit in spring 2020.
The Wings play their next two games on the road against the New York Liberty in Brooklyn, New York and the Atlanta Dream in Atlanta Georgia. They return home on May 29 to face off against the Phoenix Mercury at College Park Arena at 7 p.m.