San Antonio Stars guard Kayla McBride sank three decisive free throws after drawing a foul in the act of shooting in the final minutes of action in Game 5 of the Turkish League championship series, lifting Yakin Dogu University (YDU) over Fenerbahce, 76-75.
YDU previously led Fenerbache in this series, 2-0. Fenerbache, led by 2016 WNBA Finals MVP Candace Parker, came back to tie the series and force a Game 5.
With momentum swinging Fenerbahce’s way, Parker and company held the slight lead for most of the game. Parker and Fenerbahce, along with fellow L.A. Spark Jantel Lavender and Chicago Sky guard Allie Quigley showed their obvious strength and deep bench against a much smaller YDU team.
YDU, however, featured Courtney Vandersloot, named MVP of the championship series. Vandersloot, also Chicago Sky’s point guard, had 17 points and 14 assists in her team’s win.
After McBride made the clutch free throws, Fenerbahce countered with a basket by Lavender to put her team up by one with 19 seconds left. YDU responded with a dish from Vandersloot to ex-WNBA player Quanitra Hollingsworth to put them back on top by one with just 3 seconds remaining.
Fenerbache then inbounded the ball to Parker, who was fouled hard on a shot attempt. All seemed to be in Fenerbahce’s favor as Parker, a 75% free-throw shooter in Turkish League stepped to the line with just 1 second left on the clock—but she missed both.
YDU’s win surprised many. Though seeded first heading into the playoffs, Fenerbehce and Galatasaray had been the only two champions in Turkey since 2006.
McBride ended the game with 21 points and three assists, but more significantly, her defense against the significantly taller Parker forced the Sparks star to make shots outside.
Hollingsworth netted 20 points and grabbed an impressive 20 rebounds for YDU.
As for Vandersloot, she played her customary game at both ends, directing traffic and causing havoc on the defensive side of the ball. She was often guarding fellow Sky player Quigley, and even took an elbow shot to the face while defending a Quigley drive, which should make for playful locker room banter this season.
Parker ended the game with 18 points, 12 rebounds, and five assists for Fenerbahce, and there is no doubt she wishes she could have those last two attempts back.
Parker did go down mid-way through the fourth quarter as Hollingsworth attempted to draw a charge as Parker drove to the basket. Parker was helped off the court and sat out the next few possessions, clutching her right rib-cage area.
Now, the two-time WNBA MVP can use her European season’s end as motivation as she rejoins the Sparks.