Hometown players help bring home the Sky’s first championship


Chicago Sky’s Diamond DeShields, center, and Kahleah Copper left, along with teammates celebrate after defeating the Phoenix Mercury in Game 4 of the WNBA Finals to become champions Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)

Former DePaul women’s basketball player Allie Quigley has been outspoken regarding winning a championship with the Chicago Sky. As one of the two remaining members from the 2014 team that lost in the WNBA finals, alongside her wife and Sky point guard Courtney Vandersloot, the Joilet, Ill. native is now participating in a dream-to-reality experience as the Sky became this year’s WNBA champions.

After losing the Finals in 2014, the Sky have brought the championship full-circle, celebrating their finals-clinching 80-74 victory over the Phoenix Mercury in front of their home fans at Wintrust Arena

Quigley had been on five teams within the first four years of her career. She finally found her role here in Chicago, and now she is a champion. She highlighted how she almost gave up on the journey, but made the commitment to stay and grew from the experience.

“I feel like that was in my mind, going to be my last go-around,” Quigley said. “I think I just gave everything I had for this last chance because it was home, and I wanted it to work so bad. I think it was just a combination of all my years overseas, gaining confidence playing against WNBA players and feeling like I really belong and just waiting for my chance. ”

DePaul women’s head coach Doug Bruno coached Quigley from 2004-2008. He praised Quigley for her perseverance, hard work and being an example to other young women not just around the world, but for the university as well.

“She is our MVP,” Bruno said. “She may not have been the team’s MVP, but she is our MVP.”

As a DePaul alum, Quigley won her first championship on the home court of her alma mater. She discussed what inspired her huge play down the stretch.

“It was from my coaches, teammates, they tell me I am the best shooter in the world,” Quigley said to ESPN’s Holly Rowe during the championship celebration on the court. “The crowd feeds me the energy to get me through.”

Quigley acknowledged that the team experienced a rough patch in the middle of the season and that the team had to make a choice to quit or keep fighting in pursuit of a championship.

“I think it was just the struggles you saw on the court,” Quigley said. “It was our inconsistency playing. We just didn’t know who we were. I feel like we were frustrated with ourselves, with each other just really buying into our defense and this new way that we all wanted to play and we all believed in.”

She believed that the team found their groove in the Dallas series, and that team bought into the new system ever since.

“First game of the playoffs in Dallas, we found who we were, and it was by the leadership of our coaches and each other just really buying into our defense and this new way that we all wanted to play and we believed in.” Quigley said.

The team stood on their new identity, starting off the game strong with a putback layup by Vandersloot. Vandersloot continued to push the pace offensively and contributed in an all-around game, finishing the first half with 6 points, 6 assists and 5 rebounds.

Quigley led the way offensively, hitting timely shots that included a 3-point jump shot within the final seconds of the first quarter. The team only had two bench points in the first half and struggled offensively from the three, shooting only 15 percent, and 40 percent from the field. The Mercury bounced back, playing better than the first half in Game 3. The team was mostly without star Diana Taurasi due to a technical foul and three personal fouls, but was able to manage through the play of Skylar Diggins-Smith and Brittney Griner.

Diggins-Smith kept the team afloat while executing a game plan that featured Brittney Griner getting a plethora of touches in the paint. Griner led the way with 18 first-half points on an 80 percent shooting. The team also got some offensive help that featured a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from guard Sophie Cunningham at the end of the first quarter. The Mercury went into halftime with a 44-37 lead thanks to a 9-0 run to end the first half.

The team surpassed their Game 3 point total within the first moments of the third quarter. Griner stayed aggressive, scoring 28 points, 10 points in the second half.

The Sky continued to struggle from the three, but Naperville native Candace Parker gave the Sky life, scoring 7 straight points that include a clutch 3-point shot and a fastbreak layup from Vandersloot right before the 2-minute mark of the third quarter. The defense picked up and the Sky cut a 14-point lead to single digits with a 9-0 run but timely free throws from Taurasi and a basket by Diggins-Smith gave the Mercury a 9-point lead at the end of the third quarter.

The Sky continued to fight in the fourth quarter behind the hometown players Parker and Quigley. Quigley hit back to back 3-point field goals to cut the Sky deficit to five points with eight minutes left in the game, keeping the team as close as possible with her 26 points and five 3-pointers.

The Sky stormed back in the three-minute mark to take the two-point lead with 1:22 left in the game thanks to a 11-0 run with defensive stops that led to Kaleah Copper’s fastbreak layup, Parker’s 3-point basket and back-to-back layups by center Stephanie Dolson. Vandersloot scored on a clutch shot off a pump fake in the paint and the last two free throws before Parker’s game-sealing rebound brought home the franchise’s first WNBA championship with an 80-74 win.

Vandersloot finished the game with 10 points, 9 rebounds and 15 assists, adding to a postseason for the history books. Parker had a double-double, finishing with 16 points and 15 rebounds.

Upon grabbing the final rebound and dribbling out the clock, Parker ran to hug her family on the sidelines. She harped more on the significance of that moment, especially to be able to do it in her hometown.

“I had flashbacks from high school when I first realized we won the state championship, and it was kind of similar, I don’t know,” Parker said. “It was amazing to just hug my dad and my mom and my family. It was just an amazing feeling to be from here and see so many people in the stands that have been supporting you since you started. I think it’s just a moment where you just have to really take it in, so that’s what that was.”

Sky head coach James Wade is the third Black head coach to win a WNBA championship. He discussed the importance of the team sticking together to get the championship.

“We’ve always stuck together,” Wade said to Rowe during the championship celebration. “As times got tough, we stuck with it and now we have a brought a championship to the city of Chicago.”

Copper was named Finals MVP. She cried in elation, reflecting on her work ethic that earned her this experience.

“I worked so hard and my teammates and coaches believed me,” Copper said. “I stayed ready until it was my time.”