ROSEMONT - The two diehard Indiana Fever fans, each wearing Fever-emblazed t-shirts, weren't going to miss game two of the WNBA's best-of-three Eastern Conference Finals on Sept. 1 at the Allstate Arena. The Fever was one win away from advancing to the WNBA Finals in hopes of reclaiming the title that the team won in 2012, marking the first pro basketball crown in Indianapolis since the Indiana Pacers won an ABA title in 1973.
Jenny Perdue and Daneen Wilson sat patiently and quietly awaiting the tip-off of the afternoon clash, with the host Chicago Sky sporting their all white uniforms with blue trim, while the Fever donned navy blue outfits with splash of yellow.
Perdue and Wilson spent more than three hours in a car, driving here from their suburban Indianapolis home in support of their favoritesTamika Catchings for the former and Erlana Larkins for the later. They were joined by two other Fever faithful women from the Hoosier state.
"We plan on winning this [game]," said Perdue, 38, who works as a lab tech.
Perdue and Wilson, 51, are Fever season ticket holders for the past four years, and have only missed one home game during that stretchthe day they got married in Indiana.
They missed the Fever's 81-76 win this past June 27 over the Phoenix Mercury at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. "It was a helluva game," missed, Perdue said.
"I wanted to wait a day," to get married, Wilson added with a smile.
The two have been together for 11 years, and they wore their Fever t-shirts when they were married. Wilson was quick to show a photo on her phone of the two, wearing their Fever shirt, at their marriage ceremony. They stood and cheered during the introductions of the Fever players, then enjoyed popcorn during the game.
Perdue, who sported a team-signed Fever baseball hat for the playoff clash, said women's basketball is growing in popularity. "Women's basketball is more community-driven," Wilson added.
The lesbian couple also was quite knowledgeable on the woes endured in late August by openly gay pro football player Michael Sam, who was cut by the St. Louis Rams and then not claimed on waivers by any of the other 31 National Football League ( NFL ) teams.
St. Louis coach Jeff Fisher said "it was a football decision" to cut Sam. But, Wilson said, "It really makes you wonder why" he was not claimed by another team, "especially since he did so well in the preseason."
But the focus of Labor Day at the Allstate Arena was basketball, not football … but also a bit of softball.
Berna Whiteside stood close to center court, about 20 rows from where the action was happening. She said she wasn't nervous before the game, but instead was moving to the loud, up-tempo music. This was her third Sky game she's attended this season and she wore a Sky baby blue t-shirt. Whiteside said she doesn't have a favorite Chicago player. "I like them all," she said.
When pressed, she added, "I love the way [Chicago's Elena] Delle Donne plays, and Sylvia [Fowles], too, and that rookie guard, Jamierra [Faulkner] is really good as well."
Whiteside, 60, a physical education teacher in the Chicago Public School system who lives in the Chatham neighborhood, hasn't hung up her basketball shoes, yet.
Or her softball cleats.
She plays both sports in women's leagues of the Chicago Metropolitan Sports Association ( CMSA ) for the renowned Nubians. Whiteside is a basketball guard, a softball pitcher, and has played multiple times in the annual women's Softball World Series, promoted by the Amateur Sports Alliance of North America ( ASANA ).
"I'm very excited for the game; this is something we haven't done beforemade it this far in the playoffs. I'm really looking forward to the game," she said minutes before the color guard marched to center court, with 6,019 fans also watching.
The sky trailed 39-31 at halftime as Larkins led all scorers at that point with 11 points.
Whiteside was joined in the stands by several Nubian teammates, including her twin, Anita, plus her niece, Christal. Other Nubians supporting the Sky playoff drive included Demetria Skanes, Candis Collins and Alsheena Vaughn, among others.
Whiteside, who said basketball is her favorite sport, said she admires the Sky's hustleand always tries to emulate that in CMSA play.
When the final horned sounded, it was the Sky who were smiling, forcing a deciding game three on Wednesday in Indiana.
Chicago won 86-84 in double overtime as Fowles led all scorers with 27 points, along with 7 rebounds.
Chicago's Courtney Vandersloot added 18 points, while Tamera Young finished a team-high 9 rebounds.
Shavonte Zellous had 20 points for the Fever, while Catchings and Larkins finished with 16 and 15 points, respectively.