Alana Beard (248875)
Credit: Bill Moore photo

For the second year in a row, the two best teams in the WNBA are battling it out for the championship. The Los Angeles Sparks claimed game one 85-84 in a buzzer beater by Chelsea Gray. The Minnesota Lynx took game two 70-68, thanks to ferocious defense.

“All athletes dream of that moment, you know, especially of this magnitude,” said Gray, who didn’t even play the year she was drafted (2014) while recovering from a knee injury. Her WNBA career took flight when she joined the Sparks in 2016.

“It starts with preparation,” Gray said. “Coach [Brian Agler] always preaches poise, no matter if they are very aggressive on the ball. If the crowd is loud, just stay together.”

Before game one, the Sparks showed their team unity by choosing not to come out for the national anthem. Agler supported the players’ decision. Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike said the statement of Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin resonated with them.

“It’s not about showing any type of disrespect,” said Ogwumike. “With athletes, we want to be able to be on this main stage and lead our communities and set an example. Some people may want to kneel; some may not want to. We want to stand in solidarity together and stand by our mission, and that’s in unity and togetherness.”

In both games, one team came out hot and the other came back. A non-factor in game one, Rebekkah Brunson of the Lynx was a huge factor in game two. On the line is WNBA history, as this title could be Brunson’s fifth. She is currently tied with members of the Houston Comets, the league’s first dynasty.

The first two games of this five-game series were held in Minnesota. On the day in between games one and two, the Lynx participated in a Jr. NBA Clinic. Point guard Lindsay Whalen said the bright smiling faces of the kids energized the players.

“We want to be role models to the next generation of kids and players,” said Whalen. “We taught some drills we worked on as kids, tried to show them a good time, how fun basketball can be and how great it can be to be a part of a team, a family really.”

The series resumes Friday in Los Angeles.