When Diana Taurasi won championships for the University of Connecticut, head coach Geno Auriemma's credo was: "We have Diana, and you don't."
The Indiana Fever didn't have Taurasi Sunday evening in their game three victory against the Phoenix Mercury, but they had Briann January and Ebony Hoffman. And thanks to gutsy performances from the rookie guard and injured veteran, the Fever also has a 2-1 lead in the 2009 WNBA Finals.
And now, one game is all that stands between the Fever and a championship. Wednesday night, Indiana and Phoenix meet once again. Tip time is 7:30 pm. Tickets are available at the Conseco Fieldhouse box office and at wnba.com/fever. In case of a sale out, the game will be televised on ESPN2.
Game three came down to the last play. Phoenix had the ball, down by one, with three seconds remaining. Ebony Hoffman - suffering from a fourth quarter shoulder injury - blocked Tangela Smith's shot into Tamika Catchings' hands as the clock expired. The final score: Fever 86, Mercury 85. One more game.
Hoffman saved the Fever twice in the final minute, also hitting the go-ahead basket with 51.7 seconds remaining. Averaging 20 points on 71% shooting during the series, she is a legitimate Finals MVP candidate. And now, with a shoulder that's taped up and sore, Hoffman is one game away.
Earlier, as Phoenix pushed their lead to six points, the Fever, rattled, began pointing fingers, settling for jump shots, and missing rebounds. It was the rookie January who calmly stepped in and drilled a three point basket and then knocked down a jumper to put the Fever back on top, 70-67, as the third quarter ended. January, who didn't even make the all-rookie team, is one game away.
Catchings, of course, once again flirted with a triple-double. Brought to the Fever in 2001 with a torn ACL, she sat out her first season with the team. Since then, something or someone has always kept her from the WNBA Finals - an injury, the Detroit Shock, Katie Douglas and the Connecticut Sun. But now, after all the frustrations, Catchings is one game away.
Douglas has reached the Promised Land on two occasions but found no trophy waiting for her. She was off her game Sunday, shooting just 6 of 17, but when the Fever needed a basket, she always hit the shot. After being so close so many times, the Indianapolis native is one game away.
And there are the old-timers, Tully Bevilaqua and Tamecka Dixon, both with championship rings already but still chasing that championship feeling. Now, perhaps for the last time, both are one game away.
One game from a WNBA championship. Ten years of waiting. Wednesday night the Indiana Fever can make history.
But don't forget, Phoenix has Taurasi. And Diana Taurasi, facing defeat, is a dangerous thing to behold.