With “Believe in Women” shirts being carefully laid out on each seat, the stage was set for Opening Night, at Talking Sticks Arena in Phoenix, Arizona. The crowd was vibrant with energy, as the starters were announced for the Phoenix Mercury, for the first time this season. The starters for the Phoenix Mercury included #12 Briann January, #6 Yvonne Turner, #42 Brittney Griner, #24 DeWanna Bonner, and #17 Essence Carson. The starters for the Las Vegas Aces included #21 Kayla McBride, #22 A’ja Wilson, #8 Carolyn Swords, #10 Kelsey Plum, and #0 Jackie Young. The GOAT, Diana Taurasi, was sitting courtside, with the Mercury, wearing the Air Presto Mid Acronym Dynamic Yellow kicks, ready to cheer on her team after being sidelined for 10-12 weeks, with a back injury.
The game was off to a fast start in the beginning, with a quick 3 pointer by Yvonne Turner. At 2:39 left in the 1st quarter, recent Adidas sponsorship signee, Liz Cambage, made her debut in her Aces jersey. Cambage only played 14 minutes but made her presence known with 13 points. The Aces struggled during the 1st quarter to keep up with the Mercury but turned it around by the end of the 1st. Both teams were tied at the beginning of the 2nd quarter, as the game became an ultimate back and forth between the two. The Aces got ahead of the Mercury, by as many as 10 points in the 3rd. As the 4th quarter was underway, the tug of war came back in full force again. The game came down to a two-point difference with 6.6 seconds left. With the Mercury on top, and Aces having the ball, A’ja Wilson took two shots in the last possession that just didn’t fall. The referees concluded the ball was knocked out of bounds at .1 seconds with the Aces regaining possession. Yet .1 of a second wasn’t enough time for the Aces to try again. The Phoenix Mercury won the first matchup between these two teams, with two more games to be played, later in the regular season. If this is any preview to the intensity of what the future matchups will consist of, they are going to be talent telling games, that can’t be missed.
Players from both teams had a great game, overall. DeWanna Bonner gave a very solid performance in her LeBron 16 Martin kicks, with 12 points, 12 rebounds, and 4 assists. Yvonne Turner was named the Star of the Game with 18 points, 10 assists, and 3 rebounds in her LeBron 16 Glow kicks. Essence Carter wore her Kobe A.D. Exodus PE’s while scoring 20 points and grabbing 5 rebounds. Briann January and Brittney Griner both had productive games, scoring 16 and 18 points, respectively. The Aces’ points came from 9 of the 11 players on their roster, with 5 players in double digits.
After the game, Mercury fans flooded the streets of downtown Phoenix. As I walked into the parking garage elevator with four people, outside of myself and my parents, I noticed the diverse activities everyone was coming from that night. One couple had been to the Diamondbacks baseball game, and the other two had gone to the symphony. It shed light on how amazing it was that the Phoenix Mercury game was still so crowded, even with all of the various options underway, at the same time downtown. Any WNBA doubters would have been able to look around to recognize what is right in front of their very eyes. The WNBA is pivotal in its’ purpose, and people are finally starting to pay attention.