EVERETT — The crowd finally woke up halfway through the third quarter.
The Storm was up by one and Mercedes Russell’s pass had just been intercepted by Dallas’ Arike Ogunbowale.
Russell stayed focused and locked down in position as Ogunbowale drove into the key for a layup. With a quick swat of her arm, Russell blocked Ogunbowale’s shot and sent the ball into the row of fans sitting courtside behind the basket. Despite trailing much of the first half, the Storm had its best game since the All-Star break and defeated the Dallas Wings 69-57 at the Angel of the Winds Arena. For the second time this season, a home win over Dallas ended a three-game losing streak.
“That’s a key win for us,” Storm coach Dan Hughes said. “We went through a tough stretch, came back home and needed that one and it was a good one to get.”
The Storm held standout rookie Ogunbowale to just 5 of 12 from the floor.
“The main focus was getting our defense going because the past three games we had a slow start and our defense wasn’t on point and that affected our offense as well,” Storm forward Natasha Howard said. “This game we definitely needed it and our defense actually picked up.”
Howard led all players with 23 points and 11 rebounds and had six steals. Jordin Canada added 18 points and a team-high six assists.
In a game that started completely opposite of how it would end, the Storm wasn’t able to spark any momentum until the third quarter. Using a 4-0 run, with layups from Russell and Canada, the Storm led for the first time at 41-38. The Storm kept up the momentum, keeping Dallas scoreless for more than three minutes.
“We’ve been a little bit stagnant the last three games and not being able to move the ball and play at a pace that we know how to play at,” Canada said. “From the start we knew we were playing with a lot of energy, and we knew at some point it was going to wear them down so we tried to continue at it.”
The Storm disposed of any hope Dallas had at a comeback when a Howard layup at 2:56 in the fourth quarter gave the Storm an 11-point lead and sparked an eruption from the crowd of 6,268.
“I thought the second half, we kind of escalated the game in a lot of ways,” Hughes said. “I thought the second half, defensively, we got back to the reality of how we have to play against these types of teams in the WNBA.”
Dallas opened the game with a 23-foot three-point jumper from Kayla Thornton. The Wings used a 5-0 run for a comfortable lead over the Storm to end the first quarter with a 24-18 lead.
The Storm evened the score early in the second quarter. Again Dallas used a run, this time of 7-0, for a lead.
Canada pulled out two and-one plays to get within one of the Wings twice and her layup with 10 seconds left in the half got the Storm to 38-37 at intermission.
“They put us in situations where we were closing out, and they had the ability to make shots and that changes a little bit of their impact,” Hughes said. “That’s not something every game Dallas does, but they did. So we had to in-game adjust. And I thought we did a good job. I thought with every quarter we got a little better.”
Sami Whitcomb made her first start for the Storm since before the All-Star break, taking the place of Jewell Loyd. Hughes said that since Loyd is on week six of an eight-week recovery from an ankle injury, the trainers limited her to 20 minutes as to not rush her return.
The Storm will begin a three-game trip this weekend as it faces the New York Liberty at noon Sunday.