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Article updated: 8/23/2013 11:48 PM

Sky stays grounded after securing playoff berth

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By Patricia Babcock McGraw

There was nothing over the top, like popping champagne bottles or Gatorade baths.

A team picture in the middle of the locker room was about as wild and giddy as the Chicago Sky got Friday night after trouncing the New York Liberty 82-64 at Allstate Arena.

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"We were taking the picture and it was cute because as soon as it was done, it was like, 'OK, that's enough. The picture is enough,'" Sky veteran Swin Cash said. "We all kind of caught ourselves in the moment. We were like 'We just made the playoffs. It's not like we won them or anything.'"

You couldn't blame the players, though, if they celebrated as if the latter was the case.

By defeating New York, the Sky not only won its fourth straight game and increased its lead in the Eastern Conference to 3½ games over Atlanta, history was made.

The Sky (19-8) earned its first playoff berth in the eight-year history of the franchise. Years of frustration of being the only team in the league to have never tasted the postseason were suddenly wiped away.

"It just feels so good right now. It makes all the years of disappointment worth it," said Sky center Sylvia Fowles, who has spent all six years of her WNBA career in Chicago. "All the hard work and all the ups and downs, this makes it worth it."

Four players scored in double-figures for the Sky, led by Fowles with 14 points. Cash and star rookie Elena Delle Donne chipped in with 11 points apiece and Courtney Vandersloot had 10.

The Sky, which blew open the game in the third quarter and built a lead as big as 26 points, also got 28 points from its bench as every player who entered the game scored and every player got at least 12 minutes. The rest time for the starters was important since a key game at Atlanta looms today.

Of course the Sky has more key games than that, a total of seven to finish the season. That's part of the reason the players were low-key in the locker room. They insist that just getting to the playoffs isn't anywhere near the top of their list of goals. They want to win the East and get homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs, which means a strong finish is needed.

"This is a great first step for us. But it's a first step," a focused and businesslike Delle Donne said from the locker room, looking as if she was ready to take on Atlanta right then and there. "It's great to put the pieces together like this and be in the position we're in. But there's a lot more ahead for us."

New York (10-16) got a game-high 25 points out of forward Plenette Pierson. Chicago native Cappie Pondexter, the third-highest scorer in the WNBA (18.7 ppg) was held to just 3 points on 1-of-8 shooting.

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