Ionescu Sets Record, Aces Win Skills Challenge At WNBA All-Star Friday

Jul 15, 2023, 2:13 PM | Updated: 2:18 pm

WNBA All-Star...

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JULY 14: (L-R) Allisha Gray #15 and Cheyenne Parker #32 of the Atlanta Dream, Arike Ogunbowale #24 and Satou Sabally #0 of the Dallas Wings, Sabrina Ionescu #20 and Courtney Vandersloot #22 of the New York Liberty and Chelsea Gray #12 and Kelsey Plum #10 of the Las Vegas Aces are silhouetted as they are introduced before the WNBA Skills Challenge during WNBA All-Star Friday ahead of the 2023 WNBA All-Star Game at Michelob ULTRA Arena on July 14, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

LAS VEGAS (AP) — New York Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu electrified the crowd Friday by hitting 20 straight shots and scoring a record 37 of a possible 40 points to win the 3-point shooting contest at the WNBA All-Star Game in a performance that will be incredibly difficult to match.

She made 25 of 27 shots to break the event record for the WNBA and NBA — and nearly meeting her own high standards.

“Shouldn’t have missed two,” Ionescu said. “It was the final round. I had just lost in the skills. I wasn’t going to lose again.”

The Las Vegas Aces’ team of Chelsea Gray and Kelsey Plum won the skills competition with a time of 44.3 seconds in the final round, easily beating the 58.0 put up by the Ionescu and Liberty teammate Courtney Vandersloot.

In the 3-point contest, Ionescu beat the Seattle Storm’s Sami Whitcomb and the Dallas Wings’ Arike Ogunbowale in the final. Whitcomb had 24 points and Ogunbowale 11.

“I knew they were going in,” Ionescu said. “I was telling my agents over there, I didn’t even wait for the ball to get through the net. As soon as I shot it, it looked good and I just went down and kept grabbing (basketballs) and was listening to the fans as they were cheering, knowing that they went in. So they were my validation.”

Allie Quigley, who has won a record four 3-point contests, including the past two, is not playing this season. Her absence cleared the way for someone else to step up.

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Ionescu did more than just that, beating Quigley’s mark of 30 points set just last year.

“UNBELIEVABLE!!! This record won’t ever be broken,” Quigley tweeted.

Ionescu also bested the Indiana Pacers’ Tyrese Haliburton from earlier this year and Stephen Curry’s NBA record of 31 points set in 2021, and the Golden State Warriors’ star shooter noticed.

“RIDICULOUS!” Curry tweeted at Ionescu.

Ionescu posed for a photo imitating Curry’s famous lights-out pose while holding her newly won trophy. She also jokingly challenged him to a “shoot out.”

Minnesota Timberwolves forward Karl-Anthony Towns tweeted it was “the greatest round we may see in a long time.”

Whitcomb (28 points), and Ionescu (26) and Ogunbowale (21) advanced to the final. The Connecticut Sun’s DiJonai Carrington (18), the Indiana Fever’s Kelsey Mitchell (15) and the Aces’ Jackie Young (15) failed to advance out of the first round.

The WNBA changed the skills format this year, switching to a two-player team event. Four teams were represented, going through an obstacle course that tests all the skills required in a regular game — agility, passing, dribbling and shooting.

Last year, a WNBA player teamed with one from Nike’s Elite Youth Basketball League. Ionescu won last year’s contest with Zoe Brooks, this year’s national high school player of the year and a North Carolina State signee.

The Aces (45.9 seconds) and Liberty (47.8) advanced out of the first round, eliminating the Dallas Wings’ team of Ogunbowale and Satou Sabally (52.6) and the Atlanta Dream’s team of Allisha Gray and Cheyenne Parker (58.7).

Then the Aces won, with Gray finishing strong after Plum first went through the course.

“I didn’t look that skilled out there,” Plum said. “But, no, it’s really cool to be here in Vegas, to do it in front of our fans and family and friends.”

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Ionescu Sets Record, Aces Win Skills Challenge At WNBA All-Star Friday