Sun Rally in 4th, beats Sky to advance to WNBA Finals
CHICAGO >> The Connecticut Sun has made no secret of wanting revenge against Chicago in the WNBA Playoff semi-final series of teams, especially after the Sky kicked them out of the semi-finals in 2021 when they were on the way to the title.
“We come here every year and Chicago kicks us,” Sun forward DeWanna Bonner said of the Sky, which swept all four regular season meetings.
Connecticut got the revenge they were looking for as Jonquel Jones had 15 points and 10 rebounds and the Sun overcame an 11-point fourth quarter deficit, beating the Sky 72-63 tonight in the deciding fifth game of the half. -final and qualifying for the WNBA Finals.
The Sun scored the game’s final 18 points to overcome a 63-54 deficit with 4:46 remaining.
All of the Sun’s starters scored in double figures and Connecticut advanced to the Finals for the third time overall and the first time since 2019.
Connecticut will face the top-seeded Las Vegas Aces for the WNBA title. The first game of the series will take place on Sunday in Las Vegas.
“There will be a new champion in this league,” Sun coach Curt Miller said. “There will be a franchise champion for the first time. There will be a new coach, again, who will be champion for the first time.
Chicago was trying to become the first team to repeat as WNBA champions since the Los Angeles Sparks in 2001-02.
Jones scored inside to put the Sun ahead with two minutes left, hitting a free throw that followed for a three-point lead. Natisha Hiedeman tied the game with a transition layup with 2:24 left as Connecticut cut their deficit in the fourth.
A Courtney Williams pull-up with 47.5 seconds left gave the Sun a five-point cushion, and DeWanna Bonner knocked down four free throws to put the game away.
Connecticut beat Chicago 25-5 in the fourth quarter, recovering from a disastrous third period in which it scored eight runs and returned the ball seven times.
“When adversity hits, sometimes we fold,” Hiedeman said. “Nor will we bend any more. As you all saw (after) the third quarter, we picked up once again. Now we are going to the championship. The work is not yet finished.”
Kahleah Copper led the Sky with 22 points on 8 shooting for 19, including 3 of 5 from long range, and added four interceptions.
DeWanna Bonner added 15 points, Hiedeman added 14 and Williams and Alyssa Thomas each added 12 for Connecticut.
Emma Meesseman, who finished with 14 points on 6-for-14 shooting and six rebounds, gave the Sky an 11-point lead with 7:20 left.
Chicago coach James Wade called the late meltdown “one of the biggest disappointments” of his professional career.
“We haven’t had a quarterback like that, and to end the season, (it) didn’t show what we actually did,” Wade said. “I wish I could give them a bucket and I just couldn’t. It’s just a difficult feeling.
In the first half, the Sun continued the searing shooting they had in Game 4, when they hit 56.9% of their shots. But that slowed in the third quarter, as the Sky defense tightened.
Candace Parker buried a 3-pointer and Copper followed with a three-point play to give Chicago a 10-point lead going into the fourth.
But Chicago’s shot went cold and the Sky missed its last eight shots.
“Of course it wasn’t intentional, but maybe we stopped attacking,” Courtney Vandersloot said. “(Maybe) we were afraid of losing, rather than trying to win. But I feel like we looked good, we just didn’t knock them down.
Parker finished with seven points and nine rebounds.
Miller called the Sun’s fourth-quarter performance “historic,” but he’s well aware his team will once again be considered an underdog in the final against Vegas.
“Not many people will pick us over Vegas either, and that’s okay,” Miller said. “We’re going to prepare and try to make it a Connecticut Sun style of play.”
To do that, he’ll rely on more stellar post play from Jonquel Jones, Alyssa Thomas and Brionna Jones.
“(Parker) is an incredible all-time great player in this league,” Miller said. “But I hope someone writes (about how) the combination of JJ, AT and Bri Jones knocked her out three out of the last four years. I hope this group of post gets recognition for what it done, night and night for us.
Parker once again finds himself with a tough decision on retirement after the 36-year-old decided to chase back-to-back titles this year with Chicago.
“I’m going to go back and reassess if I’m able to continue playing at the level I’m at,” Parker said. “And I think that’s the most important thing, I never want to cheat the game. I won’t cheat the game.
Just like in 2021, Parker will take his time to weigh his options in the offseason.
“So when I can’t go out and play and be the Candace that I want to be, I won’t play,” Parker said. “And I think that comes in the offseason.”
Parker, Vandersloot and Quigley have all indicated they will be making decisions about their basketball futures in the offseason.
Their three contracts are about to expire. The same goes for Belgian striker Emma Meesseman, who joined Sky on a one-year deal in February.
“Every day we are all committed, 100% invested in winning a championship and making history,” Vandersloot said. “We failed, but it wasn’t for lack of effort. It wasn’t for lack of commitment. »
Quigley reflected on her tenure with the Sky and expressed her gratitude for how she and now-married Vandersloot came to meet in Chicago.
“I never imagined it would end like this or that I would have the career I had,” Quigley said. “Especially being able to do it in Chicago with my family, meeting my wife, it’s amazing. I couldn’t ask for anything better.”
Connecticut’s 18-0 streak to end the game is the longest streak a WNBA team has mounted to complete a playoff game. … Chicago has averaged over 40 points in the paint all season, but only scored 24 tonight. … Parker added nine more boards to extend his all-time WNBA playoff record to 609 rebounds. She passed Tamika Catchings (598) on Tuesday.
Chicago will face the top-ranked Aces in Las Vegas in the WNBA Finals opener on Sunday afternoon.