By Aaron Lommers Herald Writer
SEATTLE — The Seattle Storm are a work in progress.
Friday night things started to click.
The Storm struggled with the winless Tulsa Shock for nearly three quarters, before outscoring Tulsa 28-13 down the stretch to run away with a 76-58 win, their first victory of the season. In the process, Storm head coach Brian Agler earned his 212th career victory, making him the winningest coach in the history of women’s professional basketball.
Agler amassed 72 victories with the Columbus Quest of the American Basketball League. The remaining 140 victories have come in the WNBA with the Minnesota Lynx and the Storm. He surpassed Van Chancellor, who earned all 211 of his victories in the WNBA with the Houston Comets. The Comets folded in 2008.
“First of all, Van Chancellor had just a tremendous career with Houston,” Agler said. “All those wins with one team, four championships, a really good person. That being said you have to have great players. You think about some of the players that played for him there and key players that have played for me are like Katie (Smith), Sue (Bird) and Lauren (Jackson) and Camille (Little) and Tanisha (Wright) now and Swin (Cash).
“If you are going to have great teams and be involved with great teams, it’s all about having great players.”
One of those great players stepped up on Friday to help Agler get his record-setting victory. Sue Bird scored a game-high 27 points, shooting 9-for-15 from the field and 5-for-7 from behind the 3-point line. Bird’s flare for the dramatic was also in full-effect. She knocked down a double-clutching 30-footer at the buzzer in the first quarter to give the Storm a 17-14 lead and banked in a running 3-pointer as the shot-clock wound down in the fourth quarter that all but put the game away.
“She found ways to get the basketball in her hands and really be creative and did a really great job tonight,” Agler said.
After undergoing some changes to the roster in the offseason, Bird said the team is starting to come together.
“I think being comfortable helps and we’re getting more and more comfortable with each other and you are able to just go out there and play and not think so much,” Bird said.
Individually, Bird said that Agler had been pushing her to be more aggressive on offense.
“Brian has been getting on me to do that and I just tried to do that tonight,” Bird said. “Luckily the shots did go in though.”
Bird didn’t distribute the ball as much as she normally does, finishing the game with just three assists. But that didn’t mean that other players weren’t involved offensively. Every Storm player who dressed for the game played — and scored.
It was some of the reserves that helped spark an 18-3 run that spanned the final minutes of the third quarter and the first few minutes of the fourth quarter that turned a 48-45 lead into a 66-48 advantage.
The run was started by one of the unlikeliest of players — Ewelina Kobryn. Kobryn’s minutes are scarce and when she does play she isn’t known as an offensive juggernaut, but she played well on Friday. Rookie Shekinna Stricklen drove inside only to have her shot turned away by a Tulsa defender. The ball fell directly in the hands of Kobryn, who immediately looked to pass. Bird and Smith both pointed to the shot-clock that was about to expire, so Kobryn quickly tried her luck at an 18-footer. The shot hit the backboard and bounced in at the buzzer and the run was on.
Kobryn finished the game with seven points and six rebounds. Kobryn scored five of her seven points during that run and gave the Storm quality minutes early in the fourth quarter with Bird on the bench.
“Eva even had a great stretch there where she was playing well,” Agler said.
Camille Little also came alive offensively for the Storm, finishing with 19 points and nine rebounds. Seattle’s Alysha Clark also saw her first action as a WNBA player and with 1:59 to play in the game scored her first point with a free throw.
Jennifer Lacy led Tulsa with 12 points.
Agler said that he has seen improvement in his team, but it still has a way to go.
“Every team is different,” Agler said. “Every team goes through their own process of improvement and I think our team has a long way to go. But I also think that we have made great improvement in the last two weeks. I thought we played much better defensively in the second half. It’s nice to see Sue really break out.”
Aaron Lommers covers the Seattle Storm for The Herald. Follow him on twitter @aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.