The newly crowned WNBA champions Minnesota Lynx had the option of going across the street from the arena to a private party at a downtown restaurant Wednesday night. Or take a rented limo out to Paisley Park in Chanhassen for a private concert given by the place’s owner.
Whether or not the players accepted Prince’s offer, nine times out of ten they’d probably still “party like it’s 1999.”
“An awesome series,” proclaimed WNBA Player Personnel Vice President Renee Brown, just minutes after the Lynx’s 69-52 victory Wednesday over the Indiana Fever to win the championship series 3-2. It was Minnesota’s third WNBA crown in four tries, winning in odd-numbered years (2011, 2013, and 2015).
“This one was the hardest,” noted Lynx Assistant Shelley Patterson, the only coach of color on either squad. “It is unbelievable.”
Game 5, the absolutely last game of the 2015 WNBA season, and the first series to go the distance since 2009, was the first in which a team had forged and maintained a double-digit lead. After being down by two after one quarter, Minnesota outscored Indiana 33-12 over the course of the next two quarters, and took control of the contest and the championship trophy as well.
“We got stops” in the second quarter, recalls Lynx guard Lindsay Whalen on the game’s turning point. “That was the name of the game.”
Series MVP Sylvia Fowles’ layup with seven and a half minutes left in the contest gave the winners its biggest lead of the night — 23 points.
“I’ve been a big fan of Sylvia ever since she was in Chicago,” said the champagne-soaked Minnesota Assistant Coach Jim Petersen in the overjoyed locker room. “I knew that when we got her [in late July via trade], she was special.”
The 6-6 Fowles averaged nearly 12 points in the series — Wednesday she led all scorers with 20 points. She’s now 1-1 in title series play — her former team Chicago lost last season to Phoenix.
“She is a better person than she is a player,” notes Petersen. “As special as she is on the court, she is that special off the court. She’s a wonderful teammate and a sweet soul.”
“Sylvia had a big game and we needed it out of her,” added teammate Seimone Augustus, who added 16 points of Fowles, who also was a teammate at LSU.
“Three real tough outs — Los Angeles, Phoenix and then Indiana, and we did it,” declared Petersen of the Lynx’s 2015 three-opponent march to post-season nirvana.
“I am just enjoying this moment,” added Lynx rookie forward Shae Kelley, who was waived at the end of training camp in May, but later rejoined the club at the same time Fowles was acquired. “There are no words to describe that feeling,” she points out. “They didn’t have to bring me back. It is just a blessing to be a part of this. I’m blessed.”
Indiana’s class act, Tamika Catchings, came into the winning locker room amidst the popping corks and the champagne flowing and congratulated the Lynx players. She led her team with 18 points — neither she nor her teammates have anything to be ashamed of. “One of the best series in the history of our league,” contended Brown.
Finally, Whalen who like Patterson has been a part of all three Minnesota championship clubs, and the team’s longest continuous beat writer, afterwards briefly shared a moment by ourselves in the corner of the locker room. “Thank you Charles for everything you do,” she said as she held her cigar Red Auerbach-like.
“It was the most fulfilling,” said Whalen. “We had to keep doing it together as a team.”
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Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.