In a game that wasn't supposed to be easy, the Colorado Chill managed to escape Tuesday night, keeping the Chicago Blaze at bay and maintaining its undefeated franchise-long home record with an 86-79 win.
The dominant play of all-stars Ebony Hoffman, Keisha Anderson and Tamika Catchings gave Chicago a 47-36 halftime lead. Colorado was uncharacteristically cold from the field. The team shot 36 percent from the field and went 0-of-8 from the 3-point line. The Blaze countered with great scoring from inside and the perimeter.
A weary Chill crowd began to buzz, worried that this might be the end to an incredible 20-game home winning streak. Coach Kelly Packard got her team back on the right track with a few words in the locker room and brought out a different team for the second half.
"Kelly has a way of getting our attention," said Chill guard Becky Hammon. "She got us back on track by saying all the right things."
The Chill came out and played with a newfound energy to start the second half and fought back. Colorado opened on a strong run and tied the game at the 14:30 mark on a layup by center Ruth Reilly. From there, the momentum was back-and-forth with each team unable to build a strong lead.
Down the stretch, the game was slowed by frequent foul calls. Chicago coaches and players were visibly frustrated as Colorado finished the game standing at the free-throw line. The Chill went 21-22 on free throws in the second half, scoring only two field goals in the game's final eight minutes. Chicago ended with 27 fouls to the Chill's 18.
Both teams struggled to find any rhythm the rest of the way. The athleticism of both teams was held back, as every time they started to run the ball it seemed another whistle blew.
The Chill (10-3) protected its lead from the line, doing what it had to do to earn the victory. A 3-point basket by Hammon with five minutes left stretched the lead to four, and the Blaze (7-5) never closed on that lead the rest of the way. Colorado ended the victory on two free throws by forward Carrie Bacon.
Reilly led the way for the Chill with a 23-point, 14-rebound effort, collecting her seventh double-double of the season. Anderson and Hoffman paced Chicago, scoring 22 and 17 points, respectively.
Aside from questions with the officiating, Chicago coach Shelley Patterson hopes to see the Blaze work on its ability to finish games. When asked if she felt this was a game her team let slip away, she said, "absolutely."
"Come playoff time, we need to have more continuity, Patterson said.
Anderson echoed her coach's sentiments.
"We need to learn how to keep the lead and stay aggressive," Anderson said.
The Chill will take the results and look to keep the streak going strong. The team plays next on Saturday against San Jose (1-10). After that it goes into the all-star break, where the team is now guaranteed a first-place spot in the NWBL.