INDIANAPOLIS — Tamika Catchings finally won her long-awaited WNBA championship.
The 33-year-old forward scored 25 points to help the Indiana Fever win its first title with an 87-78 victory over the Minnesota Lynx on Sunday.
Catchings, who was the MVP of the Finals, averaged 24.8 points in the championship series, which the Fever won 3-1 over the defending WNBA champions.
“It’s been an amazing journey,” said Catchings tearing up. “We’ve had ups and downs, ins and outs.”
Erin Phillips added 18 points and eight rebounds. Shavonte Zellous and Briann January each had 15 points.
Indiana won while its No. 2 scorer, Katie Douglas, missed most of the series with a severely sprained left knee. Douglas checked in with 3.2 seconds to go to a loud ovation.
“We sure didn’t make it easy,” Douglas said. “We went three games with Atlanta, three games with Connecticut. This team played amazing in these Finals.”
Catchings had won three Olympic gold medals and an NCAA championship at Tennessee in 1998, but never a WNBA crown. She had been in a position to clinch at home before. The Fever led Phoenix 2-1 in the best-of-five Finals in 2009, but the Mercury beat the Fever to force the series back to Phoenix, which won the title at home in Game 5.
This time, Catchings took it home with college coach Pat Summitt looking on in the crowd.
Indiana led 63-58 at the end of the third quarter. Minnesota cut Indiana’s lead to 70-67 on a jumper by Maya Moore, but Phillips scored on a drive past Moore, got a defensive rebound, then found Shavonte Zellous for a 3-pointer from the left corner to give the Fever a 75-67 lead with 4:58 remaining.
Indiana, coached by original Seattle Storm coach Lin Dunn (200-02) led by at least five points the rest of the way. A 3-pointer by January gave Indiana an 80-72 lead with 1:18 to play.
Seimone Augustus, Minnesota’s leading scorer in the playoffs, was held to eight points on 3-for-21 shooting. Lindsay Whalen scored 22 points and Moore added 16 points for the Lynx, who were trying to become the first to win consecutive titles since Los Angeles in 2001-02.