Courtney Vandersloot, Sky snap Mystics' 6-game winning streak
There were chants of "MVP, MVP" as the final moments melted away Friday night at Wintrust Arena.
But those chants weren't for former Chicago Sky star Elena Delle Donne, now with the Washington Mystics and the season-long favorite for most valuable players honors in the WNBA.
The chants were for current Sky star Courtney Vandersloot, who has slowly but surely been playing her way into the MVP conversation not just with the partisan home fans who adore her, but with observers all over the league.
And Vandersloot just added more reason to take her seriously as a candidate.
Vandersloot, the longest-standing member of the Chicago Sky, helped her team to one of its biggest wins in team history, an 85-78 victory over Delle Donne's Mystics, the first-place team in the WNBA and winners of six straight games and 11 of their last 12.
The Sky, which got 15 points and 9 assists out of Vandersloot, the leading playmaker in the WNBA at nearly 9 assists per game, had yet to beat the Mystics this season and had lost nine straight games to the Mystics.
"I had a real surreal moment out there," Vandersloot said of when the "MVP" chants started. "I was thinking like, wow, this is really me out here, and they're chanting 'MVP.' They might be a little biased, but I'm cool with it. I'm going to roll with it."
The Sky will roll into the playoffs in September for the first time in three years. After four straight playoff appearances, including a run to the WNBA Finals in 2014, the Sky missed the playoffs the last two years.
On Thursday, the Sky clinched a spot in the playoffs and at 17-11 currently sit in fifth place in the standings. The top eight teams make the playoffs, and the top four receive byes.
The Sky is aiming higher, though, knowing now that taking down the best teams in the league is certainly possible.
"We've known all along that we can compete with the best teams in the league, and this is kind of proof I guess, in a way," Vandersloot said. "Because, we can say it over and over again. But until you do it ...
"Moving forward, this gives us a lot of confidence."
Second-year forward Diamond DeShields topped the Sky with a game-high 22 points on 3-of-5 shooting from the 3-point line. Stefanie Dolson added 18 points and Astou Ndour, now starting in place of injured Jantel Lavender (out for the season with a broken foot), finished with 13 points.
Dolson, who has been hamstrung with foul trouble lately, kept her fouling in check to team up with fellow bigs Ndour and Cheyenne Parker to do a solid job defending Delle Donne, who finished with a quiet 16 points on 5-of-14 shooting.
"When we have post players who aren't in foul trouble, we can put on a little bit of pressure," Sky coach James Wade said. "The fact that we were able to keep constant length on (Delle Donne) without having to worry about fouls or being a little hesitant ... we were able to play with fresher legs and fresher minds."
Three other players finished in double figures for Washington, which drops to 20-8 after having its six-game winning streak snapped.
Aerial Powers had 12 points and both Natasha Cloud and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough added 10 point apiece for the Mystics.