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Record crowd energizes Sky

ROSEMONT – Deep into the fourth quarter, Chicago Sky guard Erin Thorn dropped a blind pass behind her back to Sylvia Fowles and the 6-foot-5 center laid in a transition bucket that could have sufficed as the highlight reel’s play of the game.

It was met with an overwhelming and uncanny amount of celebration.

What usually is a tame and modest showing of support for Chicago’s WNBA team swelled to a franchise-record crowd of 13,838 on Wednesday at Allstate Arena, and the fans – mostly children from various summer camp programs and the camp staff – provided a raucous backdrop for the Sky’s 72-54 victory against the Tulsa Shock.

Day campers brought signs proclaiming their love for the team, and cheered in accordance with the scoreboard’s instructions. They wrangled against one another to catch a free T-shirt and jumped to their feet with each heroic play.

The Sky responded to the adulation with their fifth home win and first victory by more than 15 points this season.

“I like all the kids in the stands,” said Fowles, who led all scorers with 21 points and posted her 35th double-double of the season with 13 rebounds. “We need to have Camp Day every day.”

The Sky (7-7) never struggled against the Shock (1-12), which entered the matchup on the heels of a coaching change and in the midst of a second disappointing season since the franchise’s relocation to Tulsa from Detroit.

Underestimating a team with a single win, though, is dangerous, but the Sky had no such problem. They started the game with an 8-0 run, never let the Shock closer than seven points and led by as many as 21 late in the second quarter.

The crowd didn’t have much time to stop screaming. Between the high-paced offense and the Justin Bieber tunes during timeouts, there was little the children didn’t find exciting.

“Can they come back on the 19th?” quipped Sky coach Pokey Chatman of the Sky’s next home game July 19 against Seattle. “It was great. It makes it harder to communicate sometimes, but what happens, I noticed, is ... it makes your players communicate more. That’s what we want, anyway. It’s electrifying. I didn’t even hear the whistle blow a couple times.”

Turnovers could have been cause for silence. The Sky’s 17 turnovers were the performances’ only blemish but offset by the Shock’s low scoring percentage. The Shock shot 29.4 percent from the field and went 0 for 5 on two consecutive Sky turnovers early in the third quarter.

The Sky lead the league in lost possessions, averaging 18.08 a game.

“We’ve got to cut that and value each possession,” forward Michelle Snow said. “We have to read the floor, see what’s open, what’s not, and take what teams are giving us.”

Meanwhile, fans can continue to give the Sky all the love they did Wednesday. The turnout doubled the franchise’s previous attendance record of 6,950.

“It was typically what you would expect to play in,” Snow said. “It was good to actually get a situation like that, and it brings a lot of energy to you.”

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