EVERETT — Angel of the Winds Arena may be the Seattle Storm’s secondary home this season, but when the Storm are there they sure seem to play like it’s the primary.
The Storm, bolstered by the return of head coach Dan Hughes from medical hiatus, hustled the Los Angeles Sparks off the court Friday night, winning 84-62 before an announced crowd of 6,114 to improve to a perfect 3-0 at Angel of the Winds. Jewell Loyd scored 23 points, including five of Seattle’s 14 3-pointers, and Natasha Howard added 20 points and nine rebounds to lead the Storm.
And it was just more of the same of what the Storm have showed during their stint in Everett.
Friday’s game marked the end of the Storm’s first phase in Everett. Seattle had to find a new home this year because its usual home court, KeyArena, is in the process of being torn down and replaced by a new arena. This season the Storm are splitting their home games between Angel of the Winds and Alaska Airlines Arena at Hec Edmundson Pavilion on the campus of the University of Washington, with Hec Ed serving as the team’s main home court. Seattle played its first three home games at Everett, then will host two more in early August. The other 12 are at Hec Ed.
The reason Seattle played its first three games in Everett is because of scheduling conflicts at Hec Ed, which included the fact that the University of Washington was still in session, as well as high school graduations taking place at the arena. UW’s classes are now finished and high school graduations are complete, meaning the Storm are able to play their next home game, Sunday’s contest against the Indiana Fever, at Hec Ed.
Storm general manager Alisha Valavanis said she was thrilled with the way the games in Everett, which included a sold-out crowd for the season opener on May 25, have played out.
“It’s gone really well,” Valavanis said prior to Friday’s game. “I’d say from the building support to the community showing up, it’s been awesome.
“You know, it does feel like home,” Valavanis added “Obviously it’s a bit of a commute. But with the court (the Storm had their own basketball floor installed at Angel of the Winds), with the arena — we love that the seats are green — we really do feel like we have two homes this season.”
The Storm now go six weeks before returning to Everett. Further conflicts at Hec Ed mean Seattle plays games at Angel of the Winds on Aug. 2 against the Washington Mystics and Aug. 8 against the Dallas Wings. Valavanis did not know the specific conflict, but the Alaska Airlines Arena schedule indicates UW basketball camps are taking place at the arena during that time period.
Even with the challenging Friday rush hour commute to Everett, the Storm were happy to be back at one of their homes, considering they just completed a four-game, 11-day road trip that was their longest of the season — Seattle went 2-2 on the trip.
The Storm were also happy to have Hughes back in full capacity for the first time this season. Hughes had been unavailable since undergoing surgery to remove a cancerous tumor in his digestive tract on May 14. Hughes was around the team during the period following surgery, but wasn’t medically cleared to resume running practices until the team returned from its road trip.
Even with Hughes back, the Storm continue to suffer through adversity. In addition to Hughes’ travails, Seattle also lost reigning league MVP Breanna Stewart to a season-ending Achilles injury, and perennial all-star point guard Sue Bird is out indefinitely after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery. Now the Storm are without Bird’s replacement as Jordin Canada, averaging 9.8 points, 5.3 assists and 2.9 steals per game, missed her second straight contest because of a bone bruise in her left knee.
Despite all the missing players, and despite L.A. having two-time WNBA MVP Candace Parker back from her hamstring injury to go along with a star-studded roster, the Storm had their way with the Sparks the entire night. Loyd came out on fire, scoring Seattle’s first 11 points, and consecutive 3s by Sami Whitcomb, Howard and Loyd early in the second quarter gave the Storm a double-digit lead they maintained the rest of the half. Whitcomb’s 3 late in the third quarter stretched the lead to 20, and the rest of the game became academic.
Loyd and Howard came out of the game to a standing ovation with five minutes remaining and Seattle leading by 25.