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10/10/04 at Connecticut

Final score: Storm 67 – Sun 65 (W) (1-1)

WNBA Finals Game 2

Attendance | 17,072! The Storm's first ever complete KeyArena sellout!

Anthem Watch | The 13 year old kid was back and belted out another beautiful performance and kicked David Cassidy's ass all over the place (re: Anthem Watch from the 10/8 at Conn game).

Fan Psyche | Betty! Nykesha? Betty! Nykesha? Betty!!!

Game Highlight | The Shootout at the OK KeyArena.

Halftime | A group of street drummers doing their thing on plastic buckets.

Flopometer | Debbie Black was working it hard and her protegé Whalen was acting like a beached whale — flopping hard and often.

SF.O Keyword of the Game | Whew!

Game Photos | Game Photos (Scott Larson)

Damn. As a fan of the Storm, I of course want to see them dominate and win comfortably. As a fan of basketball, I also like to see a good competitive game and love to see players who absolutely refuse to lose — players who really do leave it all out on the court and end up giving us performances for the record books.

We had a ripper tonight on all counts, that is for sure.

Betty Lennox and Nykesha Sales were both simply spectacular and turned the second half into a shootout that wasn't decided until the last seconds. As I said to the PI reporter during the game, if you can't enjoy this kind of skill, talent and gutsy play you can't call yourself a basketball fan.

Saying that Sales was on fire diminishes the idea of being hot. She was a walking supernova in the second half. The Sun scored 35 in the last 20 minutes and 21 of that came from Nykesha. It didn't matter from what angle, whether she was squared up to the basket or who was guarding her. Everything she threw into the air came swishing through the basket. Sheri Sam, who shared the defensive assignment on Sales with Chelle and Adia, will most probably be having Nykesha-based nightmares for awhile. The one shot that Sheri is sure to relive for a long time to come is the one miss that Nykesha had — her biggest shot of the night. With the clock at 3.1 seconds, the Sun inbounded the ball and found a wide open Sales in the opposite corner and behind the 3-point line. How Sheri or one of the other Storm players let the hottest of hands slip free like that will certainly be a topic of discussion between the coaches and the team during practice Monday. Amazingly, she got the ball in perfect scoring position and let it fly like she had every time during the second half. I don't know if the weight of what that shot meant got to her a little or if she just rushed it to beat the clock, but it went off the side of the backboard and bounced away from the rim. Storm win and we get game 3.

Luckily, Sales wasn't the only superstar on the court last night, and I don't mean LJ or Sue.

Thank. God. For. Betty. Lennox.

Betty matched Sales big basket for big basket and was just as unconscious through the second half. Betty has evolved before our eyes this season. In the first few games, she would drive toward the basket with her head down and shoulder out. Sometimes she made it, sometimes she got called for offensive fouls. She has since changed her attack and instead of muscling her way through the defense, she steps, pops and shoots over them. Again, it didn't matter where she was on the court, on balance or falling back or who was guarding her. She started hitting and kept hitting. The Storm scored 32 in the second half and Betty counted for 16 of that. The Storm coaches and management have been talking for years about getting a third scoring option to compliment our 2 All-Stars. They keep saying that a third scorer is the key to winning a championship. Well, we're here in the Finals and Betty is fulfilling the promise of that third scorer. If she has half the game she had tonight and the Storm win on Tuesday, she should win the Finals MVP hands down. I don't think LJ would bat an eye should that come to pass.

LJ scored a double double, but it was primarily in the first half. She was everywhere early on and was torching the Sun on the boards and going at them strong on offense. We knew she was going to be a monster well before the game started. She had her game intensity face all the way through the shoot around and even during the pregame stretching the Storm does. You know she means business when she's staring down the trainer during the warmups. She also came out with the secret hair weapon — pony tail first half and braid second half. She put it to good use early on and fought through the physical double and triple teams the Sun were throwing at her.

LJ has plenty of rivalries for any player, but I think she will be adding Wendy Palmer to her short list. Palmer has been physically abusing LJ in such a way that you would expect her to be nearly fouling out each game. Not so. She only had one foul called on her tonight. Because the refs have been allowing so much in the fight for position in the post and with the free for alls when someone gets an offensive rebound and tries to go back up with it, LJ and Kamila have been getting beaten up. I think over the back calls have gone the way of traveling (especially on Whalen, the girl could only take more steps if she was hiking cross-country) during the Finals. Allowing the players to play is one thing, allowing players to pummel each other should be stopped regardless of the game situation.

Speaking of the refs, boy did they miss a couple big ones tonight. They called a jump ball when Sheri had corralled a loose ball in the corner right in front of the Sun bench even though she was obviously call for a timeout. On the scramble for the ball after that jump, LJ got the ball again in the corner and was hammered by a Sun player as she tried to pass it out. No call even though the refs should have been looking for the Sun to foul in order to stop the clock. Katie Douglas stole the ball and called timeout as she was falling out of bounds. That is completely against the WNBA rules. That is an NCAA rule, not a WNBA rule. Sally freakin' Bell said that Douglas' foot was in bounds when she called timeout. BS. The reason she only had one foot inbounds was because she was falling out of bounds. It should have been Storm ball. Instead, the Sun get to advance the ball to the other end of the court and set up for a final shot. The refs almost handed the game to the Sun plain and simple.

It didn't end that way, so we're on to Game 3.

I would be remiss if I didn't highlight the other Storm heroes from this game. Chelle Thompson has been a ringer for the Storm. Coach Donovan rarely played her during the regular season and then has her as one of the primary go-to bench players during the playoffs. I wonder if Coach D didn't keep Chelle tucked away on purpose just so that she would have an ace in the hole who was a defensive demon and amazingly pure shooter. Chelle's shot is so pretty. I don't know what her overall percentage is this season, but it's got to be more than 50%. If there was a stat for shooting percentage on big baskets, she would be near 100%. Chelle was ice in her veins and fire in her heart. She is the consummate team player — cheering on the team when she's on the bench and bringing energy and intensity when she's on the court.

Janell is hurting I think. She always has a heating pad on her hip, but she's good for shorter and shorter stretches each game it seems. She gets in there and fights like she's 100%, but she seems to have a hard time keeping it up. She had another one of those "get that crap out of here" blocks tonight that had the crowd going nuts. Whalen stole the ball and took off on a fast break. Janell caught her from behind (sore hip?) and slapped that ball into the 3rd row. We all were checking the court for Whalen's shoes, but with gunboats like those they don't come off too easy. Janell also had a fastbreak of her own. She stole the ball and ran the court — grimacing all the way — only to miss the layup with LJ getting the rebound. You have to admire this woman's guts and determination.

Kamila and Sheri were quiet offensively and instead were expending all their energy on defense. Kamila, Janell and LJ made huge adjustments from Game 1 and completely shut down the Sun posts. Palmer, McWilliams-Franklin and Jones were held to 3 points collectively. Throw in the rookie Willingham who came in for Jones after Asjha suffered an injury to her hand (I didn't see how it happened) and the 4 Sun posts still only scored 8 points. I'm sure all the press will be focused on Nykesha and Betty, but this was perhaps the story of the game. The Sun posts also kept up their bruising pressure on the Storm, but the Storm won the battle under the basket this game.

Another defensive story that might get overlooked is the job Sue and Betty did on Whalen. True, she scored 9 points and got 7 assists, but the switching defense the Storm employed against Whalen kept her frustrated and out of the flow much of the game. It was surprising to see her teammates (Taj especially) yelling at her in the second half because she was out of position or not coming to get the ball.

All I can say is that if the Storm can replicate their defensive scheme for Game 3 — shut down the Sun posts and frustrate Whalen — and then just do a little better job on Sales or Douglas (whichever one gets hot), they will give themselves as good a chance to win the game as they can. We saw the Sun's best punches tonight and the Storm found ways to take them, roll and punch right back. Game 3 will be intense, physically punishing and may be up for grabs. The Storm know what they need to do and have the Championship within their grasp. Now they just need to take it.

Other notes:

There was none of the pregame nonsense tonight to delay the start and get the players out of their routines. Announcing awards is all nice and everything, but not if it screws up the beginning of the game.

The sellout was fantastic, but I was a little disappointed in the crowd noise. It was loud, but not nearly as loud as I was hoping. I'm a hard one to please, true, but I would bet that the 104 decibels we saw in Game 3 against the Monarchs is still the loudest we've gotten and that was with half the fans. I want my ears to hurt. I want to have to cover my ears to keep the blood from pouring out. I want the opposing team to look up with a "Damn that is loud" look on their faces. I will not be satisfied with less.

The new graphics on the big screen were nice, but I think they helped keep the fans from reaching their full volume. The rulers of the ArenaVision made two new chant videos tonight — Bring It Home and a new De Fense. Both were waaaaaay too slow. The fans wanted to go one speed — the same speed that all the other chants go — but the new screens were about 2/3rds as fast as the existing ones. It meant that half the crowd was following the screen and the other half was doing the normal thing. My advise? Fix the speed or lose the screens. We can't have any confusion or mangled chants. Period.

During the pregame fan shoot for Team Shop gift certificates, both the Bringys and Owl took shots. I may have committed the ultimate Stormfan betrayal by "Brick!ing" Owl. It was an impulse. I was overcome with the power of the "Brick!" The megaphone was suddenly in my hand and I was screaming at one of our own. I couldn't help it. Sorry Owl (of course I was giggling the whole time).

I kept my word and came to the game dressed as a Fairy Godmother. Stormrocks anointed me as an official member of the FG sisterhood and bestowed upon me the Magic Wand of Eternal Mojo. I tried to fulfill my duties by sharing the Mojo with the team every chance I got. Not only did I get some funny looks from the Storm players, I also got some attention from the media. A couple of photographers came up for my name for captions after they took my picture. A PI reporter came up during the first half and asked me some questions about the outfit and about the sellout crowd. If any of the photos make it into the newspapers, let me know because I think I know what the final Caption This will be.

Our two new Connecticut pals, Judy and Rosie, had a good time watching Nykesha go off. They luckily made hotel reservations through Wednesday — so they could do more sight seeing so they claim. After the game we were talking to them and I said something about being disappointed in the crowd noise. Judy game me a "Whaaaaa?" look. Like I said, I'm hard to please.

Several of the original Storm teams were on hand tonight and got a big round of applause. Coach Dunn, Coach Graf, Katy Steding, Edna Campbell, Jamie Redd, Charmin Smith and Kate Paye were all sitting a few rows up behind the Storm basket. I know they all wanted to be down there and playing (especially Edna), but I hope instead of feeling left out they understood their role in setting the foundation for what the Storm is doing right now. They are part of this Championship run, regardless of whether they are on the court or not.

Here's an odd one — the ushers and security roped off the court at the end of the game so the fans wouldn't rush the court. They didn't do that in Connecticut and why would we rush the court after Game 2. Game 3 they better put up metal barricades, but they didn't need any rope for Game 2.

One last note — the line for Game 3 tickets outside the West entrance was a sight to behold. Makes me verrry happy that we have season tickets. That's a hint for you newbies out there — you get season tickets and you don't have to stand in line hoping for good seats like that.