Wings spoil Teresa Weatherspoon’s coaching debut, beating Sky 87-79 in opener

ARLINGTON, Texas — Sky coach Teresa Weatherspoon has been here before.

Maybe not at College Park Center as the coach of the Sky. But the WNBA stage is familiar. She played with the Liberty from 1997 to 2003, then with the Sparks in 2004. In her WNBA debut as a player — the league’s inaugural game on June 21, 1997 — Weatherspoon had three points, 10 assists and seven rebounds in a Liberty victory.

She did not fare as well in her debut as a WNBA head coach — an 87-79 loss to the Wings on Wednesday.

“It’s basketball,” Weatherspoon said. “So it’s my turn to go to the drawing board and do the same thing, put [my team] in a position to be successful.”

The Sky jumped out to an early lead and were in control for most of the first half.

After halftime, the Sky and Wings exchanged leads and were tied at 62 at the end of the third quarter.

The Wings dominated the Sky in the paint, outscoring them 60-42 inside. They finished with 26 points on second-chance shots.

The Wings’ frontcourt, led by Teaira McCown, who had 18 points and 13 rebounds, was a difficult matchup for the undersized Sky without center Kamilla Cardoso.

“They’re a tough team,” Sky center Elizabeth Williams said. “They were No. 1 in offensive rebounds last year and rebound percentage. But it’s a battle; we have to find a way to get loose balls, tip them out and just make it difficult for them.”

Williams and rookie Angel Reese both had 12 points and eight rebounds. Reese scored 11 in the second half.

Reese shot 72.6% from the free-throw line her senior year at LSU, and her first WNBA point came on a free throw after drawing a foul on Wings forward Natasha Howard in the second quarter, but she went 2-for-8 from the foul line.

The Sky struggled from the free-throw line, shooting 59.3%.

“It wasn’t even nerves,” Reese said. ‘‘I was just missing. I still feel like I didn’t play my best game because I left six on the free-throw line.”

Marina Mabrey led the Sky with 19 points, nine rebounds and three assists.

With 4:20 to play, Mabrey hit a midrange fadeaway just as the shot clock expired to put the Sky up by six. Officials called for a review, and two plays later, after a made jump shot by Arike Ogunbowale, the basket was overturned, cutting the Sky’s lead to two. From there, the Wings took control, going on an 18-6 run to end the game.

Ogunbowale led all scorers with 25 points.

“Of course, I feel like I got it off,” Mabrey said. “But, obviously, that’s not what happened.

‘‘I also feel like in the last part of the game, we, offensively, didn’t go to what we wanted to. That’s something we could have more discipline in on the offensive side.”

Before the game, Weatherspoon reconnected with old friend and former on-court foe Sheryl Swoopes.

The three-time WNBA champion with the defunct Houston Comets is in her first year as an analyst for the Wings. When the two WNBA pioneers met, it was a moment of reflection.

“Hi, Spoony,” Swoopes said to Weatherspoon as she walked into her pregame media session.

“That’s love,” Weatherspoon said about their pregame exchange that ended with a long hug. “We always talk about how people compete against one another. I competed in a Liberty uniform; she competed in a Comet uniform.

‘‘So nobody believes that there’s love there because of the competitive nature of it all, how gritty and grimy it was, how hard we all fought just to get a win. But there’s love there, a lot of respect there.”

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