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Las Vegas leads New York in the WNBA playoffs as the teams prepare for Game 4

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Game 4 of the WNBA finals is tonight at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., and one of the journalists covering it is kind of busy because she can't get to work until her homework is finished. That's because she is in seventh grade. Her name is Pepper Persley, and she has been following the WNBA since she was in elementary school. She also has a podcast called Dish with Pepper, and she knows her stuff, which I found out when I asked her what we might see in tonight's matchup.

The Las Vegas Aces won the first two games in the best-of-five series. The Liberty won on Sunday night, preventing them from being eliminated. Pepper, what are you expecting going into Game 4 tonight?

PEPPER PERSLEY: Yeah. I think my biggest takeaway kind of from the first three games is the fact that whoever kind of wins the third quarter wins the game. The Aces dominated the first two at home, and the Liberty kind of took it in Game 3. It was a close game for the first half, and then you kind of saw them pull away both, like, on the score, but also how it felt there in the building. I obviously wasn't there in Vegas, but being there in New York, I could definitely tell. Like, the fans were like, OK, I think we've got this.

MARTIN: Pepper, you know, the Liberty are the only original WNBA franchise still waiting to win a championship, but they're one loss away from elimination. How do you think that history plays into the way they're playing now? Do you think it's on their minds?

PEPPER: I think it's definitely something that the players think about. And I think, also, there are a lot of fans who have been a fan of this team for 27 seasons, which is a really long time. And so I think there's that aspect, right? A lot of people want this for them, for them to be able to get their first championship at the franchise. That would be a big deal. It would be amazing for the league, too. I think both storylines, for whoever wins the championship, you know, is starting WNBA teams' first championship or back-to-back championship for the Aces for the first time in a while. So it's great for the league either way. But this, you know, starting team, getting a championship I think would be amazing. Yeah.

MARTIN: Can I just talk about you for a second? I mean, how did you get so into not just basketball, but sports reporting to begin with?

PEPPER: Yeah. Well, I've played sports - and a lot of them - since I was really young. And both my parents agree that it was important for me to have female athletes as role models. So we kind of took that and ran with it. I've gone to Liberty games since I was really little. So that - you know, being able to cover the team this season and seeing how much they've grown over my lifetime - is really incredible. And I've always also, in addition to playing a lot of sports, asked a lot of questions.

And so with sports being a big part of my life, a lot of those questions were about sports. And specifically with professional sports, my parents didn't know the answers to all of them, so we just start reaching out to teams, mainly the WNBA. It's where I got my start - and what I'm doing now still, so asking - being able to ask questions of WNBA players and just growing my platform and covering more sports. And, yeah, it's just been kind of growing since then.

MARTIN: And forgive me, you can totally ignore this question if you want 'cause it's - as I said, it's totally unfair to ask somebody who's 12, like, what they want to do for, like, the next however many years of your life. But do you consider you might continue with this?

PEPPER: Yeah, absolutely. And it's a fair question. I know not everybody has decided, but I'm - like, for right now, my dream is definitely to maybe play professional sports. I don't know, that's definitely a dream of mine, too. But I'd love to continue, you know, sports journalism. It's something that brings me a lot of joy. It makes me really happy. And I'm really passionate about it. So I'd love to continue it throughout middle school, high school, college and then professionally.

MARTIN: That is sports reporter Pepper Persley giving us a preview of Game 4 of the WNBA finals and also a little bit of a window into her life as a sports reporter. Pepper, thank you so much for talking with us. Good luck. Hoping for a great game tonight as well. And thanks for talking to me.

PEPPER: Yeah. Me too. Absolutely. Thank you for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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