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The Minnesota Lynx entered the 2012 WNBA Finals trying to become the third team in WNBA history to win back-to-back championships. But the Indiana Fever, a franchise looking to win their first WNBA title, had other ideas. Not only did they deny the Lynx a second consecutive title, but they did so in convincing fashion: winning the series 3-1 with an impressive 87-78 final win in Indianapolis.

At the center of it all was Tamika Catchings, who is as respected for her ability on the court as who she is off of it. In fact she is the very definition of heart. Catchings played with a passion that made her desire for her  first title obvious to anyone watching yet had to trust her teammates to accomplish all they did in order to win it. The championship tops a big-time year for Tamika, who won WNBA MVP last September and her third consecutive Olympic gold this summer in London, and  is the final piece of the puzzle in her Hall of Fame career. After the game, Catchings met up with her college coach, Pat Summit, in an emotional reunion.

“This journey has been full of ups and downs,” the 33-year-old Catchings said, “full of trials and tribulations, full of tears and happy faces. But today we stand with happy faces, and I like that.”

The Fever’s triumph was truly one of team over a group of talented individuals. For those who hold the idealistic belief that no matter what the expectations, basketball is great because smart play on offense and hard work on defense can  trump overwhelming talent, it was a reminder that the expectations of others mean nothing once two teams step onto the court.

The defending champion Lynx, who opened the season 10-0 and finished with the league’s best record of 27-7, failed in its attempt at being the first repeat champions since the 2001-02 Los Angeles Sparks. Despite the loss, it was a banner year for Minnesota’s Maya Moore, Seimone Augustus, and Lindsey Whalen, who won the gold in London with Catchings. For Moore, her season ended on the same court where she lost in the 2011 Final Four, the only other event she failed to win since her freshman year at Connecticut.

Perhaps  the most inspiring story of the season is Erlana Larkins. Cut from two teams in back-to-back seasons, Larkins helped fuel the Fever’s Finals run and was a real game changer. She constantly used her strength, size and hustle to come back and help her team win the championship. Larkin’s story, and the Fever’s victory, are reminders of why we love watching sports.

If you missed the final game, here’s a stunning recap – in slo-mo – from the WNBA.

October 22, 2012

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