Ionescu scores career-high 37 points to win WNBA 3-point tournament


Associated Press

LAS VEGAS. New York Liberty defenseman Sabrina Ionescu rocked the crowd on Friday by scoring a career-high 37-of-40 to easily win the WNBA All-Star Game 3-point shooting competition.

She defeated Sami Whitcomb of the Seattle Storm and Arike Ogunbowale of the Dallas Wings in the final. Whitcomb scored 24 points and Ogunbowale scored 11.

“I knew they were going to come in,” Ionescu said. “I told my agents that I didn’t even wait for the ball to go over the net. Once I fired he looked good and I just fell down and kept grabbing [basketballs] and listened to the fans as they applauded, knowing they were in. So they were my validation.”

The Las Vegas Aces, made up of Chelsea Gray and Kelsey Plum, won the skill challenge with a time of 44.3 seconds in the final round, easily beating the 58.0 seconds set by Liberty’s Ionescu and Courtney Vandersloot.

Ellie Quigley, who has won a record four competitions by three points, including the last two, is not playing this season. Her absence cleared the way for someone else.

That player was Ionescu, who made both three-pointers and all five two-point cash balls. She made 20 shots in a row for one point and missed just two to break the record that Quigley, who personally watched the game on Friday, set last season with 30 points. He also broke Stephen Curry’s NBA record of 31 points set in 2021.

“Shouldn’t have missed two,” Ionescu said. “This was the last round. I just lost my skills. I wasn’t going to lose again. I’m so thankful I only missed two.”

Whitcomb (28 points), Ionescu (26) and Ogunbovale (21) advanced to the final. Connecticut Sun’s DiJonai Carrington (18), Indiana Fever’s Kelsey Mitchell (15) and Aces’ Jackie Young (15) failed to make it out of the first round.

This year, the WNBA changed the qualification format to a two-player tag team competition. Four teams were featured going through an obstacle course testing all the skills needed in a regular game – agility, passing, dribbling and shooting.

Last year, the WNBA player teamed up with Nike’s elite youth basketball player. Ionescu won last year’s competition along with Zoe Brooks, this year’s top national schoolgirl and North Carolina state signer.

The Aces (45.9 seconds) and the Liberty (47.8) advanced out of the first round, eliminating the Dallas Wings of Ogunbowale and Sato Saballi (52.6) and the Atlanta Dream of Allisha Gray and Cheyenne Parker (58.7).

The Aces then won, with Gray finishing strong after Sliva took the course for the first time.

“I didn’t look as experienced there,” Plum said. “But no, it’s really great to be here in Vegas doing this in front of our fans, family and friends.”

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