The Las Vegas Aces needed a last gasp, desperation shot – one that perhaps, didn’t need to be quite so desperate – to get past the Chicago Sky and into the semifinal round of the WNBA playoffs.

WNBA playoffs Sky Aces
Dearica Hamby (left) throws up a half-court shot that would prove to be the game-winner for the Las Vegas Aces over the Chicago Sky in Sunday’s WNBA playoffs second-round matchup. (Image: Jeff Bottari/NBAE/Getty)

The Aces were down 92-90 with less than 10 seconds left in their single-elimination, second-round game against the Sky on Sunday at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas when Hamby hit pay-dirt from midcourt.

Hamby Miracle Saves the Day

With Chicago holding the ball, Las Vegas applied backdoor pressure rather than fouling immediately. The Sky’s Courtney Vandersloot attempted to draw a foul, then pushed the ball up the court with an attempted pass to Diamond DeShields.

That’s when Dearica Hamby stepped in with the biggest play of her WNBA career. Hamby stole the ball, took one dribble over the half-court line – avoiding stepping out of bounds, at least according to the officials on the court – then fired a shot from long distance that found the bottom of the net to give the Aces a 93-92 lead.

As it turned out, Hamby actually made a poor decision that just happened to pay off. There was no reason for her to take such a low-percentage shot: even after the clock stopped after the basket, there were still 4.8 seconds remaining in the game, making her heroics even more unlikely.

“I was in shock. I almost fainted,” Hamby told the Las Vegas Review-Journal after the game. “That was amazing. I’m still in disbelief.”

Liz Cambage led the way for Las Vegas with 23 points, while DeShields paced Chicago with 23 points in a losing effort.

Defending Champs Bounced From WNBA Playoffs

There was no such drama in the other second-round elimination game. Chelsea Gray scored 21 points to lead the Los Angeles Sparks to a 92-69 win over the defending champion, Seattle Storm.

The Storm were playing without stars Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart, both of whom missed the entire season with injuries. That made even a modest playoff run a great performance for the titleholders, who weren’t expected to make any noise in the WNBA playoffs this year given the absence of two of their best players.

After Seattle hung tough through the first quarter, the Sparks opened up a 7-point lead at halftime, and put the game away in the fourth quarter, as Los Angeles outscored the Storm 25-11 in the final period.

“In the second half, the Sparks played more aggressive and we got back on our heels,” Seattle’s Natasha Howard, who led the Storm with 20 points, told The Seattle Times. “We fought back, but the Sparks came out with more energy and fight.”

The WNBA playoffs now move on to the semifinal round, where the matchups shift to a best-of-five format. The Sparks are taking on the Connecticut Sun, while the Aces face off against Elena Delle Donne and the top-seeded Washington Mystics.

The teams just coming off their second-round victories did receive a bit of a boost on Sunday night, when WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said that the league would pay for charter flights for the Sparks and Aces, both of whom have short turnarounds to get to their East Coast opponents in time for their first games of their respective series.

“We believe it is in the best interest of the players to provide them with an opportunity to arrive expeditiously in the city of the first game of the WNBA semifinals, and have a full day on-site to practice, rest, and prepare,” Engelbert said in a prepared statement.

Bookmakers aren’t convinced that the upgraded accommodations will make much of a difference, particularly for Las Vegas. The Mystics (-110) are the clear favorite to win the WNBA Championship according to FanDuel Sportsbook, ahead of the Sun (+390), Sparks (+390), and Aces (+480).

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