Wings continue to dominate as Teaira McCowan hits late game winner

Much of the fourth quarter on Thursday night was a disaster for the Dallas Wings as they watched their 14-point lead over the Las Vegas Aces evaporate with just over eight minutes remaining. But with less than 30 seconds left and the score tied at 80, they had a chance to make sure their early efforts weren’t in vain.

Tye Harris took control of the upper post, got most of the shooting time over, and then asked Tyra McCown for a high screen. Off the screen, Harris gets enough angle on Kelsey Plum that she forces Aja Wilson over on the drive, which leaves McCown wide open at the rim. A perfect lob from Harris went over the top of the defense and McCown headed it up to give the Wings the lead again.

The Wings won the season with an 82-80 victory over the second-place Aces after Wilson missed a straight layup on the other end that could have sent the game into overtime. It was the Wings’ third straight win and their fourth in their last five games. The streak came just in time, with the Wings improving to 15-16 on the season and cementing their claim to sixth.

With just five games remaining, they are now two games ahead of the New York Liberty and Atlanta Dream, seventh and eighth, respectively, and 2.5 games ahead of the ninth-ranked Phoenix Mercury. Although they lost to the Dreamers in the tiebreaker, tiebreakers with the Liberty and Mercury are still up for grabs. Regardless, the Wings are now in the driver’s seat for a second straight playoff berth — something that’s starting to look unlikely during their severe midseason slump.

Even more impressively, they played this game without All-Star guard Arike Ogunbowale and promising young forward Satou Sabally, both sidelined with ankle injuries. So how did they manage to turn the season around despite these absences? One name: Teira McCowan.

The hero, who finished Thursday night with 21 points and 16 rebounds, has been playing the best basketball of her career in recent weeks. During the Wings’ 4-1 winning streak, McCown averaged 19.8 points and 12 rebounds while shooting 61.3 percent from the field and had four straight double-doubles.

McCown, acquired from the Indiana Fever in an offseason trade, got off to a slow start in her Wings career as she played occasionally and struggled to make an impact. However, over the past few games, she’s made the move look like a stroke of genius. If the Wings end up in the playoffs, which they really should do now, they’ll have McCowan to thank.

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