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Article updated: 10/6/2012 3:28 PM

Catchings would love to secure first WNBA title

By Patricia Babcock

The "miss list" finally got a hit last summer.

WNBA star Tamika Catchings was named the most valuable player of the league in 2011, which allowed her to fill in one of the two voids on her long list of otherwise impressive career accomplishments.

In more than a decade in the league, the former Stevenson star had rolled up gaudy statistics, set records and won numerous awards for her renowned defense. But, before last summer, she had never been named the most valuable player of the WNBA, nor had she won a WNBA championship.

Now, with an MVP award on her mantel, Catchings is knee-deep in trying to win the other trophy that has remained just out of her grasp. She wants to put an end to that "miss list" of hers once and for all.

Catchings and the visiting Indiana Fever took on the Connecticut Sun on Friday in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals and will play Game 2 on Monday (7 p.m., ESPN2) in Indianapolis. She would love to help her beloved franchise back to the WNBA Finals after its 2009 loss there to the Phoenix Mercury.

Meanwhile, the defending champion Minnesota Lynx is up 1-0 over the Los Angeles Sparks in the Western Conference finals and that series will resume Sunday (2:30 p.m., Channel 7) in Los Angeles.

"I'll be honest, I definitely put more pressure on myself because we haven't hoisted that championship trophy before," said Catchings, who has spent all 12 years of her WNBA career with the Fever. "In fact, I had no idea this was my 11th trip to the playoffs until someone mentioned it. All I know is I haven't won yet."

Catchings, who recently won the fifth Defensive Player of the Year award of her career, is beyond hungry. So are her teammates.

The defensive-minded Fever will be a tough out. Over the stretch run of the regular season, Indiana looked solid in winning five of its last eight games.

Missing hardware, part 2:

How cool would it be if Catchings and the Fever met up with another former Chicago-area star who is also seeking her first WNBA championship?

Naperville Central product Candace Parker and her Los Angeles Sparks might be down a game to the Lynx in the Western Conference finals, but they boast a dynamic offense that is capable of putting points on the board in a hurry. They will keep Minnesota on its toes.

Besides that, Parker won't let her team go down without a major fight. Like Catchings, she's far too motivated and hungry.

Parker, now in her fifth season, had been in contention all summer for the WNBA's most valuable player award. But when the Sparks were in Chicago late in the season and I asked Parker about her individual play, her focus was elsewhere.

"I'm not even thinking about the MVP," Parker said. "All I care about is winning a championship. I haven't won one yet. It's really important to me."

MVP, MVP:

Speaking of the WNBA's MVP award, that went to Connecticut center Tina Charles for 2012.

Charles had another fabulous season of scoring and rebounding in averaging a double-double (18 ppg, 10.5 rpg). Clearly, she's one of the best post players in the world.

However, I still believe Sky center Sylvia Fowles is better.

Fowles has missed out on MVP accolades over her career because of injuries (she missed nine games this season) and team mediocrity (the Sky has yet to make the playoffs).

But when a healthy Fowles takes the Sky to the playoffs, she will be the MVP of the WNBA. Mark my words.

pbabcock@dailyherald.com

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