by Greg Starks
The Philadelphia Reign took one step closer to an undefeated season, as they demolished the Baltimore Lions 88 to 57 on Saturday, July 6.
A win wasn’t always certain. The Lions were the first team that the Reign played this season, and in that meeting, they scraped by with a close 83-80 win.
And going in to Saturday’s game, Philly was without its star center, Mercedes Walker.
“I think she’s gonna be cleared to play next week,” head coach Tanae Davis-Cain said of Walker’s injury. “I probably won’t let her play just for precaution. I’m just going to let her get some rest. We want her for nationals, so there’s no rush for her to get back.”
In the first quarter, the Reign got many of their points from the paint. Philly stuck to their usual attack, which was to get out in transition and create two-on-one opportunities.
Philly’s defense forced Baltimore into bad shots and kept the Lions from snatching offensive rebounds, limiting second-chance points. As the first quarter ended, Philadelphia had built a commanding 22-9 lead. The game looked out of hand.
The second quarter opened with both teams unable to score. Philly had a 13-point lead, but only scored once until there was about four minutes left in the second.
Philly managed to string together a couple of nice offensive possessions and pushed their lead. As the second quarter ended, the Reign led 34-17.
“I told them that this game is starting to look a little slow,” Davis-Cain said of the slow second quarter. “I told them at halftime that we need to come out playing Reign basketball and to just continue to do what we do, but just at a higher level.”
Once the third quarter got underway, it was clear that Philly wanted to amp up their offensive tempo. To counter this, Baltimore began to play full-court defense. The Lions’ offense came out of halftime hot, as they began to knock down their shots. Baltimore’s problem was that their defense just couldn’t stop the Reign, and their attempts landed the team in foul trouble.
Philly was getting to the line constantly in the third, and Baltimore’s hopes of revenge began to fade away. The third quarter ended with the Reign in the lead, 57-41. Baltimore still had 10 minutes to erase a 16-point lead, but their morale was clearly fading fast.
Through the fourth quarter, Reign guard Brittany Hrynko put on a show, pushing her game total to 41 points with an additional 10 rebounds.
After the game, Hrynko spoke about her stellar performance.
“I think I started off a little slow, but I think in the second half it was just my teammates getting me open,” she said. “I was using ball screens … and I just read the defense.”
Hrynko said Walker’s absence clearly wasn’t an issue this time out.
“I don’t think it affected us,” she said. “I think it just gave us a chance to see what everyone else brought to the table. I think it gave Ayshia [Baker] a great chance to show what she had. She was in foul trouble in the first half, but she got a couple of big blocks for us in the second, so that was great.”
Philly will play the New Jersey Sting next for the third time. Davis-Cain said the Reign will be ready.
“I’m pretty sure they [the Sting] know all of our stuff and we know all of their stuff right now,” she said. “It’s just going to come down to who wants it more and I think our girls are ready, no doubt about it.”