The Indiana Fever made it their mission to get Tamika Catchings a WNBA championship.
Catchings, star of the Indiana Fever basketball team, had won three Olympic gold medals to go along with an NCAA championship at Tennessee in 1998.
As a pro, she had been a league MVP and its best defensive player. But she never had won a team title in the WNBA.
She scored 25 points to help the Indiana Fever win their first WNBA title with an 87-78 victory against the Minnesota Lynx on Sunday. It was Indianapolis’ first professional basketball title since the ABA Indiana Pacers won their last one in 1973.
“Everybody talks about the missing piece in Tamika Catchings’ career, and our players took that personally,” Indiana coach Lin Dunn said. “I really believe that was an incentive.”
Catchings took home the title with Pat Summitt, her coach at Tennessee in the stands. The two shared a long hug after the victory. Catchings shed a lot of tears in the postgame celebration.
“When you come into this league, your goal and dream is to win a WNBA championship,” Catchings said. “Twelve years later, it’s so sweet right now.”
The Fever won the game in almost classic Hoosier Hysteria fashion. While Catchings was impressive, Erin Phillips and Erlana Larkins played the best basketball of their careers in the WNBA Finals.
The Fever won even though No. 2 scorer Katie Douglas missed most of the series with a severely sprained left ankle.
Indiana held Minnesota below 40 percent shooting in all three wins.
“They played good defense,” Minnesota guard Lindsay Whalen said. “They contested shots and they made it tough for us to get in the lane a little bit. I think that was the theme of the whole series. They were just tough, and give them credit for the way they played.”
In other words, the best TEAM won.
Fever coach Lin Dunn made that point during postgame comments.
“On paper, it doesn’t look like we were supposed to win. ... They had three Olympians, and we had one. They had a longer bench than we did. But only five people can be on the floor at a time, and I thought the people we had were so focused on winning a championship.”
Young basketball players in Indiana, boys as well as girls, will be inspired by the Fever’s win. But as much fun as it will be to be Catchings while practicing in the driveway, the lesson they should take away from the championship is that it takes a team as well as talented individuals.