At times, it felt as if she was guarding her reflection.
Storm guard Betty Lennox gathered her thoughts to chase Phoenix rookie Cappie Pondexter around the court, this time hoping to stop the 5-foot-9 guard from having a repeat explosive night against Lennox's coverage.
With the WNBA logo tattoo on her biceps, Pondexter has been preparing to play with the big girls in the league since high school. She wasn't going to let her shot be stopped easily — literally and figuratively.
Storm coach Anne Donovan had to substitute in her defensive stoppers, guards Tanisha Wright and Shaunzinski Gortman, to at least slow Pondexter in the final quarter to preserve a 97-87 win Friday at KeyArena, the most points the Storm has scored in its history..
"She was in a zone," Lennox said. "It kinda reminded me of myself when we won a championship. She was going to hit everything she threw up."
With the Storm leading 82-68 in the fourth quarter, Pondexter helped cut the lead to four points by scoring 10 in six minutes. Her pass to guard Diana Taurasi made the score 89-85 with 3:13 remaining.
But unlike the loss in Sacramento on Wednesday, where the Storm caved early, it remained composed against the Mercury. Wright continued to closely guard Pondexter and Gortman grabbed key rebounds to prevent Taurasi from finding a groove.
The rookie finished with a game-high 30 points on 11 for 20 shooting, but it was the Storm (3-2) celebrating its second win against Phoenix (0-4) in a span of eight days.
"She [Cappie] was hot, but the main thing is making her feel uncomfortable when she has the ball so she's not in that same rhythm," Wright said. "I don't even know if it was because of me or because of the offense that she only took [three] more shots.
"I think we did a good job of holding our composure and making shots when we really, really needed them and getting stops when we needed to make stops. If they hit those buckets, then it's a different story."
The Storm (3-2) lived that story Wednesday against the defending champion Monarchs. Seattle was so upset at its poor defense, it was eager to play Phoenix simply to move on from being worked over 52-24 in the paint. On Friday, the lanes were protected better, but Mercury center Kamila Vodichkova improved her play against her former team, scoring 18 points.
"I was happy with our defense throughout the game," said Donovan, whose team outscored Phoenix 31-24 in the second quarter, its highest total in a quarter this season. "There are great players in this league and there are players who are going to be great and [Cappie] is well on her way. She didn't get anything easy or anything open, so even with that run that she made, I thought we did some really nice things defensively.
"That's the beauty of our team this year, we have defensive stoppers that might not be in our starting lineup that we can count on down the stretch."
Phoenix remains winless after four games. The team is learning a new system under former NBA coach Paul Westhead and will have played four of its opening five games against the WNBA's past two champions (Seattle and Sacramento).
Seattle couldn't have cared less, however.
Even with the Storm leading 74-63 with five seconds left in the third quarter, guard Sue Bird got the ball on an in-bound play and booked it the full length of the court with Mercury guard Jen Derevjanik trailing her to layin the ball nanoseconds before the buzzer sounded.
Bird exhaled as Jackson grabbed her in a bear hug.
Yeah, it felt good to be that Storm again.
"It was a really tough game," said Jackson, who wore a sleeve on her left shin and received treatment after the game. She finished with a team-high 27 points in 32 minutes. "Cappie Pondexter is unbelievable, but I think we did a good job of bouncing back. Obviously there's still stuff to work on."
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or firstname.lastname@example.org