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Aces win their second straight WNBA championship

On Thursday, Oct. 18, the Las Vegas Aces won their second championship in as many years, defeating the New York Liberty 70-69, winning the series 3-1. This marks their second title in franchise history and the first time since the Los Angeles Sparks in the 2001-2002 season that a team won back-to-back titles. This would have been the Liberty’s first title as an organization, being one of the first eight teams of the league in 1997.

Many people have called the Aces team a superteam with the drafting of superstars reigning regular season MVP power forward A’Ja Wilson, finals MVP point guard Chelsea Gray, all-star shooting guard Jackie Young and center Kelsey Plum. The team added seven-time WNBA all-star and two-time MVP Candace Parker before the season, hence the superteam label. However, back in July, Parker suffered a season-ending foot injury that has sidelined her since. She just recently had surgery on it.

The Aces are coached by the former first full-time NBA female coach, Becky Hammon, in her second season after coming over from the NBA team San Antonio Spurs. This year, she was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame for her contribution to the sport both as a player and coach. She was the first Russian person to be elected into the Hall.

This season for Las Vegas has been a record-setting one, as they became the first team in WNBA history to win 30 games in a season. The team finished with a 34-6 record, four games above the Liberty, who finished with the second-highest win total in WNBA history with 32 games. In the first round of the playoffs, the Aces had no struggle defeating the Dallas Wings as they swept them 3-0, clinching their spot in the finals against the Liberty, who defeated the Connecticut Sun 3-1.

In game one of the finals, it was a close game in two quarters, though Las Vegas would pull away in the third to win 99-82. Young dominated for the Aces as she dropped 26 points, along with five rebounds and four assists, including shooting 5-8 on three-pointers. Plum would also contribute 26 points with five rebounds and one assist.

Game Two was not a contest, as Las Vegas got out to a 38-19 lead after the first quarter and was not challenged until the final quarter. By then, it was too late for the Liberty to mount any sort of comeback. Wilson dominated the paint on both sides, scoring 38 points on 10-16 shooting while grabbing 16 rebounds. Gray would also have a double-double, scoring 14 points and having 11 assists.

In game three, the Liberty pulled away in the third quarter in an otherwise tightly contested game and won 87-73. Forward Breanna Stewart scored 20 points while also grabbing 12 rebounds and four assists. Center Jonquel Jones shined as well, scoring 27 points.

Game Four went back and forth, with the Aces taking a six-point lead with about a minute left in the game. However, thanks to a corner three from point guard Courtney Vandersloot and a jumper from Stewart, the Liberty would get the ball back after Wilson’s jumper from inside missed. After calling a timeout, the Liberty had 8.8 seconds, and after passing the ball around, shooting guard Betnijah Laney found Vandersloot wide open around the threepoint line, but she air-balled the shot as time expired.

Wilson would earn the MVP honors, scoring 24 points while grabbing 16 rebounds in the deciding contest alone. Wilson, in the series, averaged 21 points and 12 rebounds.

The WNBA will tip off in May, and this year’s draft will be one to watch out for, as household Iowa Hawkeyes star Caitlin Clark is projected to be the first pick. LSU’s Angel Reese, who made headlines after last March Madness, is also one to watch for.

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