By Seth Dahle
Newcomers Carolyn Swords and Sami Whitcomb tied game-high honors with 15 points apiece, and the Seattle Storm outscored Phoenix by 14 in the second half on the way to an 86-64 win over the Mercury in the preseason opener on Wednesday afternoon at KeyArena.
While Swords spurted a 13-6 Seattle run to open the third with 11-straight points, Whitcomb played big for the Storm down the stretch, netting 12 points in the fourth frame to keep Phoenix at bay.
Seattle head coach Jenny Boucek said that while the team still has a lot to learn, the preseason win over Phoenix was a “good starting point.”
“A lot of this is trying to see progress, see them grasp our concepts,” said Boucek. “I think they are showing signs of it. We obviously have a very long way to go but we are showing signs, glimpses, of gaining the comprehension, individually and collectively, of how we want to do things. I thought that was good, and that will give us a lot of teaching to work with, things to reinforce, things to tweak.”
Jewell Loyd added 14 points, including a 6-for-6 effort from the line, all of which came in the first half, while Crystal Langhorne recorded 10 points and six boards.
“I think Lang and I together on pick-and-rolls is probably something that other teams have to plan for,” said Loyd after the game. “Obviously she is a great scorer, but it is really her ability to catch it on the move like that and keep and her composure and make moves and finish, so we were able to get that going tonight and I think we hopefully continue to do that.”
Swords hauled in a game-high eight rebounds off the bench, and Jennifer O’Neill started at the point for Seattle and dished out a team-high five dimes. Alexis Peterson, Seattle’s second-round pick, finished with six points and three assists.
Both teams struggled to get things going early, committing four turnovers apiece prior to the first media timeout of the first quarter. Seattle’s first six came from the charity stripe before Ramu Tokashiki hit the Storm’s first jumper of the game to spark a 9-0 run to go up by seven, 15-8.
Seattle took a two-point (19-17) advantage into the second quarter, and then Loyd scored the first five of the stanza, including a three at the buzzer of the shot clock, to launch a 16-9 run to put the Storm up by nine (35-26) with 2:56 left in the first half. Lanay Montgomery scored on a reverse layup, and then O’Neill swooshed a midrange jumper to help the Storm to a 39-31 lead at halftime.
The third quarter started much like the first, as both teams traded multiple turnovers early before Seattle found its groove. Langhorne netted an 18-footer, and then Swords took over, scoring 11-straight points for Seattle to swell the gap to 15 (52-37) with 3:34 left in the stanza. Alysha Clark scored Seattle’s next five, and then Whitcomb drained a triple in the right corner to cap the quarter and push the Storm’s lead back to 15 (60-45).
With 7:16 left to play, Jenna O’Hea snagged a defensive board before she tossed a full-court pass to Whitcomb for the lay-in to make it a 19-point (69-50) game, and Seattle led by as many as 27 (86-59) down the stretch to sail to victory.
As a team, the Storm shot 46.3 percent (31-for-67) from the floor and owned a 37-25 advantage on the glass. Seattle also forced 23 turnovers and had 11 steals.
Alexis Prince, a rookie out of Baylor, paced Phoenix with 12 points on 4-for-8 shooting, Emma Cannon added six points and six boards.
With the win, Seattle improved to 5-4 all-time vs. the Mercury in preseason games. The Storm returns to action on Sunday at Phoenix at 3 p.m. PDT.