The last time a former Maryland women’s basketball player participated in the WNBA finals was 2016. It was a point guard on the Los Angeles Sparks, who scored eight points in a tight 77-76 Game 5 victory over the perennial power Minnesota Lynx to claim the title.
Now with the third-seeded Washington Mystics, the former Terp has another shot at the crown. Toliver and the Mystics just missed the finals last year, falling in the semifinals to the Lynx, who would go on to win it all. But with the defending champions out of the way — having lost Tuesday in the single-elimination first round — Toliver has a familiar obstacle blocking her way back. Who else could it be but the Sparks?
Toliver (13.9 points per game), as well as other former Maryland standouts Tianna Hawkins, Shatori Walker-Kimbrough and Natasha Cloud, will take on All-Star Candace Parker and the sixth-seeded Sparks on Thursday night in the single-elimination second round of the WNBA playoffs.
Alongside Toliver at the helm of the Mystics is forward Elena Delle Donne. On top of captaining an All-Star team, Delle Donne, a Delaware native, became the fastest player to 3,000 points in WNBA history in mid-July, averaged 20.7 points a game and was named to the Associated Press All-WNBA first team.
The Mystics have already proven they can handle the Sparks in the regular season, taking two out of three meetings. The last victory came Friday, thanks to Cloud, who hit a buzzer-beater to clinch the win.
If the Mystics can survive the Sparks one more time, they’ll advance to face the No. 2 Atlanta Dream, led by Baltimore native and Olympian Angel McCoughtry. The Mystics have played the Dream three times, winning one game and losing two.
Here’s how to watch Mystics vs. Sparks:
Time: 6:30 p.m. Thursday
Venue: George Washington’s Charles Smith Center, Washington