SEATTLE (AP) Atlanta’s Schoni Schimmel attracted a crowd and Seattle used that buzz to lift its game.
Camille Little had 21 points and 13 rebounds and the Storm used a 13-0 first-quarter run to build a double-digit in an 88-68 victory over the Eastern Conference-leading Atlanta Dream on Thursday night.
Crystal Langhorne added 17 points and Temeka Johnson had 16 to help Seattle (11-20) keep alive its faint hopes of making the WNBA playoffs for the 11th straight season.
Tiffany Hayes had 16 points for the Dream (17-12) and Schoni Schimmel added 14. Atlanta has lost three straight and seven of its last nine.
Schimmel, last month’s WNBA All-Star game MVP, played in high school in Portland and grew up on the Umatilla Indian Reservation in northeastern Oregon.
Many in the sellout crowd of 9,686, including a large number from several Pacific Northwest tribes, wore Schimmel T-shirts or held up signs of support of the rookie star from Louisville. The loudest reaction of the night for any player was when Schimmel made a 3-pointer early in the second quarter.
”At the end of the day, we fed off of the energy, whether they were cheering for Schimmel or the Dream,” Little said. ”It was loud, and it was a great atmosphere.”
Schimmel played 37 minutes and had four rebounds and six assists.
”I heard people traveled from Wyoming and Montana – those aren’t easy trips. We’re on a road game, but at the same time, it feels like a homecourt advantage,” she said. ”It’s great to have the fans behind you. They tried to get us going, but we just came up a little short.”
The Storm, who average a league-low 70.6 points per game, led almost the entire way. The 13-point first-quarter run made it 19-5. Seattle hit 10 of 16 from the floor through the opening 10 minutes, had a 29-11 lead after one and kept the margin in double digits for the rest of the night.
It grew to as many as 28 points midway through the third quarter. Atlanta never got closer than 14.
”To be able to get the lead is great. But to be able to hold them off and win the game by as much as we did is even more impressive,” said Storm guard Sue Bird, who finished with 10 points and five assists. ”We didn’t want to have to trade baskets with them. But whatever the case was, every time they came down and scored, we were able to answer.”
Atlanta has clinched its sixth consecutive playoff berth, but still has not secured the Eastern Conference crown. The Dream lead Washington by three games. Both teams have five left.
”We have to keep on pushing,” Hayes said. ”We need to pick up our energy and make sure we get these last couple wins on the road.”