May 18, 2021 

Full circle for Vickie Johnson; a win for the Wings

'Coach VJ could fuss at me and I wouldn’t even get mad'

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The Dallas Wings committed 26 turnovers in Friday night’s opener against the Los Angeles Sparks.

So why was head coach Vickie Johnson happy during her media postgame?

For one thing, Johnson said each player went into the game knowing their goals and most of them were met.

For another, the Wings won, 94-71, becoming the first WNBA team to ever win a game by at least 20 points while committing 25+ turnovers.

“The turnovers really hurt us but we played together and shared the basketball. Our defense was amazing,” Johnson said. “We still had mistakes, but they only shot 36 percent from the field and 26 percent from three, which is huge for us, and we kept them off the offensive boards. I felt, as a whole, we did a great job.”

It was a valiant effort against the new-look Sparks as the Wings were only able to spend seven days practicing five-on-five basketball. Leading the way for Dallas was guard Allisha Gray, putting up 23 points, grabbing nine rebounds, four assists and four steals. Gray said that she was just playing her game and that it is Johnson’s belief in her that makes her want to play hard.

“It makes me feel good when coach VJ lets play friendly; play my game. I don’t overthink I’m actually really comfortable on the court,” the five-year veteran said. “Coach VJ could fuss at me and I wouldn’t even get mad because she is a coach you want to play hard for.”

Dallas outrebounded the Sparks 44-25, powered by no. 1 draft pick Charli Collier recording her first double-double as a professional with 11 points and 10 rebounds, while fulfilling a goal set for her by her head coach — Johnson said the double-double was the goal she had for the rookie.

“We have high expectations of Charli,” Johnson said. “She’s working hard on both sides of the basketball, and she’s understanding the speed of the game, she understand the WNBA and she’s buying in.”

Though Dallas did not take care of the ball very well, they shot 53.1 percent from the field and 47.1 percent from three.

Better yet, they were able to get quality minutes by players that joined the team just a few days ago, a necessary coming together with an unforgiving WNBA schedule ahead.

The list includes 2020 scoring champion Arike Ogunbowale, who scored 17 points. Forward Isabelle Harrison put up 10 points and grabbed nine boards. Second-year player Bella Alarie arrived with the team the day of the game and she played just over six and a half minutes.

Dallas will continue to have challenges with the lineup due to Allisha Gray’s departure for the United States Women’s 3×3 National Team’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament and the late arrivals of forward Satou Sabally and 2021’s second overall draft pick Awak Kuier. The Wings claimed Kristine Anigwe off waivers to add some size and depth to the roster in the meantime.

A road win was a good way for Dallas to begin the year. And it marks a closing of a circle for a league original as the WNBA celebrates its 25th season.

In the first-ever WNBA game, Johnson earned her first win as a player with the New York Liberty against the Los Angeles Sparks. 25 years later, she returned to Los Angeles and earned her first win in her Wings’ head coaching debut.

The Wings will host the defending champion Seattle Storm in their home opener May 22.

Written by Arie Graham

Arie Graham joined 'The Next' in May 2021 as the beat writer for the Dallas Wings.

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