Minnesota Lynx’s Maya Moore, a Collins Hill graduate, celebrates while being named the MVP of the WNBA finals after defeating the Atlanta Dream in Game 3 of the championship series at the Arena at Gwinnett Center in Duluth on Thursday. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)
DULUTH — It’s safe to say Maya Moore likes playing basketball at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.
Having won three Class AAAAAA state championships on the arena’s floor while playing for Collins Hill High School from 2005-07, the Lawrenceville native added another title Thursday night.
She and her Minnesota Lynx teammates completed as sweep of the Atlanta Dream in Game 3 of the WNBA Finals with an 86-77 win.
Moore earned the series’ Most Valuable Player award with her performance, including a game-high 23 points in Thursday’s clincher.
But don’t ask her which of the four titles — the other WNBA title she and the Lynx won during her rookie season three years ago, plus the two NCAA Division I women’s titles the University of Connecticut and the gold medal she won as a part of the 2012 U.S. Olympic team — is her favorite.
“Why do you ask me to compare my children?” Moore joked during Thursday’s postgame press conference. “It’s like comparing kids. I love all my championships. Each are special. You can’t make me choose.
“This one was amazing as a pro. I can kind of separate it at the level — high school, college, Olympics and pro. Pro is a different beast. It’s a different animal. You’re playing at the highest rate. For the month of August, I think we played every other day for seven days twice. In college, you’re playing maybe once, maybe twice a week. So, just the intensity of the focus of the turnaround … it really is a challenge. So, this is really very satisfying because I think it’s a mental test, for sure. And you’re playing with the best athletes in the world.”
Indeed, Moore admitted there’s something special about winning a professional championship with her teammates, and winning the series MVP on the same court that helped launch her as a national figure in women’s basketball.
It definitely had her reflecting on the path her career took from Collins Hill to UConn to Minnesota, and all the people along the way who have supported her, including her Lynx teammates.
“I’m spoiled right now because I have so many people around me that I appreciate, and who have helped me so much from middle school to high school years,” Moore said. “I’m sure there are some Connecticut faithful here, too, and to be able to be able to go out on the court and do it with this awesome team — really, when you think of all you want your team to be, this team has it.
“We don’t just talk about it. We do it.”
There is probably no better example of what Moore was talking about than in Minnesota’s win over the Dream in Game 3 on Thursday.
While Moore was the game’s leading scorer, all four of the Lynx’s other starters reached double figures in scoring, led by 15 points each from Rebekkah Brunson and Lindsay Whalen. Brunson posted a double-double by pulling down 12 rebounds.
Even with Atlanta battling through injuries and an early 10-point deficit to stay close behind a combined 38 points off the bench from Tiffany Hayes and Alex Bentley, Moore and her deep supporting cast demonstrated just how dominating they can by in sweeping the Dream for the title for the second time in three seasons.
And while the Dream already had their respect, coach and general manager Fred Williams reiterated what a model of success Moore and the Lynx have become in the WNBA.
“When you look at that roster they’ve got, they came out on fire,” Williams said. “They’ve been there before. They understand what it takes to get there. They’re veteran players. They really stepped it up — Brunson on the boards, and Maya Moore, who certainly knows this arena pretty good, and (Simone) Augustus, I thought she was really key for them throughout this series. … That’s 20 points you’re getting a night from those players.”