She’s always ready.
Sami Whitcomb wants you to know that.
It had been 69 games since she last bailed out the Storm with an awe-inspiring 22-points-in-15-minute performance in the second half to deliver an 87-81 win over New York on May 26, 2017.
Fast forward nearly 16 months.
Tuesdays’ game – and in essence – the Storm’s season was slipping away in the third quarter of a win-or-go-home Game 5 WNBA semifinal against the Phoenix Mercury.
Seattle trailed 57-49 midway in the period and the odds of a comeback appeared slim even with a 15 minutes remaining because the Storm couldn’t hit a shot outside the paint.
Breanna Stewart carried the offense with a brilliant array of mini-hooks and mid-range jumpers, but Seattle’s backcourt of Sue Bird and Jewell Loyd had connected on 5 of 17 shots, including 1 of 7 on three-pointers.
Dan Hughes, who says he coaches by gut, had a feeling Whitcomb would be the difference in a heartbreaking season-ending defeat or a thrilling 94-84 comeback win at KeyArena.
“If you would have seen Sami Whitcomb’s workouts … as a coach there are certain times when you know that it is going to pay a dividend,” Hughes said. “There are types of people who understand that if they want to be better, then they stay ready.”
Whitcomb was everywhere all at once.
She harassed Diana Taurasi and held the Phoenix star to 10 points in the second half. When Yvonne Turner blew past her for a layup, Whitcomb chased her down for block from behind.
The 5-foot-10 guard delivered four assists, collected three rebounds, drained two three-pointers and scored 11 points, which allowed the Storm to overcome a fourth straight subpar offensive outing from Loyd, who finished with six points and did not play in the fourth quarter.
“We needed something to shift momentum and ignite a little bit,” Whitcomb said. “Sometimes it’s as simple as getting an offensive rebound or helping to get a stop or a tip. Maybe it’s hitting a 3 or whatever. It really doesn’t matter. You just want to make a difference.”
The 30-year-old Whitcomb is billed as a quick-release three-point specialist, but in her second WNBA season the former Washington Huskies standout is slowing building a reputation as a fan-favorite pesky defender who never relents.
Just ask Bird.
“She’s the most annoying player to practice against,” the 17-year-veteran said. “I’m not kidding, top three in my career because she just never stops. She’s the leading scorer in practice by far, without question for the season.
“She never stops, it’s constant movement, she’s a gnat on defense.”
Bird, who scored 14 of her 22 points in the fourth quarter, Stewart (28 points) and Clark (13 points and 13 rebounds) were in an epic Game 5 showdown.
But the Storm doesn’t win that game and return to the WNBA Finals without Whitcomb.
“This series has been a grind I think for both teams … and then you just inject Sami and she’s like the Tasmanian devil out there,” Bird said. “We needed that. It really raised all of our energy levels. On top of that, she hit some shots, got some big loose balls and really was huge for us. It takes players like that – that’s what makes championship teams.”
Whitcomb is unsure how many minutes she’ll play when the WNBA Finals open at 6 p.m. Friday against the Washington Mystics.
“My job as a bench player is to stay ready and be prepared for two minutes or it could be for 10 or whatever the job is that night,” said Whitcomb, who didn’t play in Games 1 and 2 in the semifinals. “If you’re not ready, you’re letting the team down. It is about all of us knowing our roles and being as well prepared as we can for those roles.
“I’m more than happy just to be that player for us to come in off the bench and try to provide a spark for whatever amount of time that is.”