By WCCO-TV

BRADENTON, Fla. (AP) — Rookie of the year Crystal Dangerfield scored 15 of her 17 points in the second half and Minnesota beat Phoenix 80-79 on Thursday night to advance to the semifinals of the WNBA playoffs.

Damiris Dantas led Minnesota with 22 points although she missed a pair of free throws with 6.1 seconds left giving Phoenix the chance to pull off another last-second postseason victory. With no timeouts left, the Mercury got the ball up the court bur Skylar Diggins-Smith’s shot was off the mark at the buzzer.

Two nights earlier, Shey Peddy made a buzzer-beating 3-pointer in an 85-84 win over Washington in a first-round victory.

The loss was the first in eight career single-elimination playoff games for Diana Taurasi, She had 28 points and nine assists to lead the Mercury.

Fourth-seeded Minnesota had been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs the previous two seasons.

“When you think about the odds of beating a Diana Taurasi team in single elimination games — you can tell me what her record is — we knew we had our work cut out for us,” said Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve, who earned the league’s coach of the year honors earlier in the day. “A lot of effort went into guarding her and she still had 28 points and nine assists. A lot of things need to go your way.”

Dangerfield was a big reason why that streak ended. She scored seven points in a 10-3 run to give Minnesota the lead for good, 74-67. Taurasi converted consecutive four-point plays to get the Mercury within one before Odyssey Sims’ basket made it 80-77 with 2:31 to go.

Sims finished with 14 points and Rachel Banham 11 for fourth-seeded Minnesota, which will play either No. 1 seed Las Vegas or No. 2 Seattle in a best-of-5 semifinal series that begins Sunday.

Minnesota’s 6-foot-6 Sylvia Fowles, the league’s all-time leading rebounder and 2017 league MVP, was playing for the first time after aggravating a right calf injury on Aug. 13. She played 18 minutes, scoring six points with four rebounds.

The Lynx made up a nine-point halftime deficit to head into the final period tied at 60-all.

Brianna Turner added 13 points and 14 rebounds and Kia Vaughn 10 points for the fifth-seeded Mercury, who have been hampered by injuries and Brittney Griner leaving the bubble for personal reasons for most of the second half of the season..

“It’s sport isn’t it. It’s great when you win and terrible when you lose,” Mercury coach Sandy Brondello said. “It’s disappointing, rather be looking forward to that next round in the semifinals. I’ll be sad in a few days and plan for the future. We got a lot of great pieces and keep adding to it. Put ourselves in a better position to win a championship next year.”

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