Jackie Young scored a career-high 27 points, Dearica Hamby made lead-changing layups at 1:41 and 1:06 remaining and Riquna Williams made it a two-possession game 30.4 seconds later with three free throws after a trey attempt as the Las Vegas Aces (3-2) defeated the Phoenix Mercury (2-3) 85-79 on Wednesday night at Phoenix Suns Arena.
Young was 10-of-15 from the field and a fabulous 8-of-11 from mid-range after going 2-of-9 from the field with four points in Vegas’ upset loss to the Connecticut Sun on Sunday.
“A good win all the way around for a team that’s learning about each other and I’m glad Jackie had a good day,” Aces coach Bill Laimbeer said. “I had some people today say, ‘what’s wrong with Jackie?’ Nothing’s wrong with Jackie, she had one bad game. She came back today with a vengeance.”
“When you look at it, Jackie’s such a big guard that we have to take advantage of that matchup whatever night it may be,” said Aces forward A’ja Wilson, who finished second on the team with 16 points. “And she executed everything that we could ask for her today. And I’m juts so proud of her. Most Improved Player’s on the way.
It’s a big deal for us,” Wilson added about Young’s efficiency from mid-range. “Because people are gonna be so focused on that and then they gotta focus on Liz (Cambage) and I and then Chelsea (Gray). We have weapons everywhere. So once we get our chemistry even better and get into it, it’s gonna be really really tough to stop.”
Young’s previous career high of 21 points was set on May 18.
Phoenix’s Skylar Diggins-Smith made a jumper from the left elbow that put her team up 77-74 with 3:11 to play, but that’s when the clutchness of Gray and Hamby took over. Gray sunk a mid-range shot with 2:20 to go and Hamby followed with a putback layup at 1:41 that made it 78-77 in favor of the Aces.
After a Brittney Griner make with 1:23 left, Hamby answered with another bucket. She had an excellent defender in Brianna Turner right up on her, started to drive from five feet beyond the 3-point line and was able to get ahead of Turner for the layup.
Phoenix, down 80-79, was left with 1:06 to work with but Griner committed an offensive foul while setting a screen for Diggins-Smith on the ensuing possession. Williams then made her clutch free throws with 35.6 ticks remaining and Cambage blocked a Shey Peddy reverse layup attempt 3.5 seconds later.
That was followed two Young free throws and a missed three from Diggins-Smith with 24.8 seconds remaining.
The Aces led by four with 9:29 to play, but Phoenix took leads of four at the 6:27 mark and the 4:55 mark of the fourth.
Young scored 11 of her points in the third. She was 7-of-7 from the free throw line.
Wilson finished with nine rebounds while Gray added 15 points and nine assists. Cambage was good for 10 points and eight boards.
“I’m very proud of A’ja today,” Laimbeer said. “In the second half the ball didn’t come her way. She didn’t go looking for shots, didn’t force shots, cuz Jackie was wearing ‘em out. Same with Liz. Liz didn’t turn it into a me versus Brittney Griner day, stayed within herself, within the team. Hamby also in the first half didn’t get very many minutes, didn’t score, one point, really wasn’t involved. And she stayed in there and made all the big plays down the stretch for us.”
Griner scored 27 points and hauled in 11 rebounds in defeat while Diggins-Smith notched 16 points and 11 helpers.