Jackie Young showcased her “most improved player” status on Sunday, making a layup with 0.2 seconds left to send the game into overtime as the Las Vegas Aces beat the Seattle Storm, 110-98, to take a 2-1 lead in their best-of-five semifinal series.
“Go ahead and do your thing,” said Las Vegas’ 2022 WNBA Defensive Player of the Year A’ja Wilson regarding her teammate’s buzzer-beater. “Like, we’re pros; this is what we do. This is our living, so this is what we’re supposed to do. I want Jackie to make the shot.”
Wilson recorded a playoff career-high with 34 points and 11 rebounds, Chelsea Gray added 29 points and 12 assists, and Riquna Williams added 14 points off the bench. Kelsey Plum had 16 points, including a three-pointer that keyed the Aces’ momentum in overtime.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever been a part of something like that,” said Aces head coach and 2022 Coach of the Year Becky Hammon. “The back-and-forth of the battle. We got off to a decent start; I thought they got away from us a little bit in the third and fourth quarter. Then obviously just big shot after big shot – from both sides, really. So, just executing down the stretch, being locked into what we needed to do, and really just sticking together in a really, really tough, tough environment with no give up.”
MORE WNBA COVERAGE: Las Vegas Aces vs. Seattle Storm — How to watch, highlights, live updates from Game 4
Breanna Stewart led Seattle with 20 points, while Sue Bird and Jewell Loyd each added 17. Tina Charles notched 16 points but missed a pair of key free throws with 7.2 seconds left in regulation that would have padded the Storm’s one-point lead.
Young contributed eight points, five rebounds and two assists, posting another solid performance in what’s become a breakout season for the fourth-year veteran. The 28-year-old Young, who hails from Princeton, Indiana, was recently named the 2022 WNBA Most Improved Player after averaging career highs of 15.9 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.4 steals this season, up from 12.2 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.1 steals in 2021.
“I definitely feet a lot more comfortable,” Young told media ahead of this season. “I think it was just changing my mindset and having a different mentality. That’s what I really worked on in the offseason.
“Last season, I was able to get to the spots on the floor that I’m successful at, so I think it’s just getting that same aggressive mindset and getting to the spots on the court where I know I’m successful and just having a just a confident mindset. Just being confident who I am as a player. I know my teammates trust me, so I just have to have the same trust in myself.”
2022 WNBA Playoffs: TV schedule, results, scores, semifinal format and more
Of note, Young improved her three-point shooting from 25 percent last season to 43.1 percent in 2022. In her first three seasons in the league, he made just 22 of 77 three-point attempts (28.6 percent). But she’s blown those totals out of the water this season, going 50-for-116 on threes.
“Honestly, I think it was a mental thing,” Young said regarding why she seldom took the threes. “But I definitely bought into [Hammon], trusted her and knew what I needed to do.”
“With Becky’s offense, we need to be able to shoot threes so we can spread the floor,” she added. “If I wanted to play, I needed to be able to shoot threes. I was hurting my team whenever I wasn’t taking them.”
The 6-0 guard, who played three seasons at Notre Dame, was selected as an All-Star for the first time in her career this season, and she participated in the Skills Challenge during the All-Star weekend. Young also was named the Western Conference Player of the Week for the first time in her career this season, earning the honors for games played from May 16-22 after averaging 21.3 points, 3.7 assists, 3.0 rebounds and 2.7 steals and shooting 55.3 percent from the field to help lead the Aces to three wins.
Seattle trailed by as many as 15 points in the first half but rallied in the second and led 92-90 with 1.9 seconds left in regulation after Bird hit a three-pointer from the corner. But the storybook moment ended on the following inbounds play, as Young sent the game to overtime. The Aces outscored Storm 18-6 in overtime.
“Right now you’re not going to see happy faces, you’re not going to see people that are thrilled about what just happened, and that’s okay,” said Bird, who now stands one loss away from retirement.
“I think you have to kind of like go through those emotions to get to the other side. And then tomorrow, we have one day to prepare, we’ll watch film, we’ll come fresh. It’s Game 4, right? Like, had we won today, that doesn’t mean anything’s guaranteed in Game 4, so you just have to find a way to kind of put this one behind you and move on.”
Seattle hosts Las Vegas for Game 4 of their semifinal series on Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET.