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Connecticut pulls away again in second quarter to sweep Sparks

Connecticut’s Dewanna Bonner had 13 points in Thursday night’s win over Los Angeles.

The Connecticut Sun took care of business on the West Coast on Thursday night. Once again, the Sun pulled away in the second quarter thanks to their defense and rebounding and beat the Los Angeles Sparks, 93-69 at the Arena.

The Sun (24-11) had four players in double figures, led by Alyssa Thomas with 18 points and nine rebounds and five assists. Connecticut beat Los Angeles for the sixth straight time, including twice in three days, and eliminated the Sparks from playoff contention.

In both games this week, the Sun pulled away in the second quarter and won the game in the third quarter. They were able to give the starting five of Thomas, DeWanna Bonner, Jonquel Jones, Natisha Hiedeman and Courtney Williams some time off the floor on the bench.

On Tuesday night, the Sun led by as many as 29 points in a 97-71 victory. On Thursday night, Connecticut got the lead as high as 27 points.

“Minutes were down and that really helped. We know they will have to log a lot of minutes in the playoffs. They are truly our core group. It was important for our bench (to get some playing time) and important for Odyssey (Sims) as she gets her feet under her,” Sun coach and general manager Curt Miller said. Veteran Odyssey Sims got more time to acclimate with her new teammates. In just her fourth game, she got five points and had a pair of steals.

Connecticut signed Sims to rest of the season contract, the team announced. “She has been tremendous on the ball defensively,” Miller said. “She is a veteran. She understands this league. When you put her out there, she really defends.”

Jonquel Jones, who caused a little anxiety among Sun fans when she twisted an ankle stepping on the shoe of Los Angeles’ Katie Lou Samuelson in the first quarter, had 17 points, three blocks and eight rebounds while Brionna Jones had 16 points and eight rebounds. Dewanna Bonner added eight points.

Brionna Jones got a little banged up early in the fourth quarter in a collision driving to the basket. Miller said it was a stinger and she sat out the remainder of the game.

“It was a good road win. We did what we needed to do on this two-game trip,” Miller said. “I was proud of the way we took care of business. Now, it is time to do some fine tuning.”

The Sun close out the season Sunday against Minnesota at 1 p.m. at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

Then, all eyes will move toward Dallas, who will face the Sun in the first round of the playoffs that begin on Wednesday. The first two games of the best-of-3 series will be in Connecticut.

With Las Vegas beating Chicago, 89-78, on Thursday night, it locked Connecticut into the No. 3 spot. Dallas (17-17) is the locked in as the No. 6 seed. The Wings won two of three games this year against the Sun.

Tied at 9-9 midway through the first quarter against the Sparks, Connecticut went on a 12-2 run to grab a 10-point lead with Williams hitting back-to-back jumpers, Thomas hitting a 1-handed shot from the top of the key and scoring on a baseline drive and Bonner hitting a jumper and two foul shots.

The Sparks cut the lead to six early in the second quarter but Thomas drove past two defenders and scored in the lane to boost the lead to eight before Sims drained a three-point shot and give the Sun an 11-point advantage.

Los Angeles cut the lead to eight with 4:30 remaining in the second quarter on a pair of free throws from Chennedy Carter but Bonner responded with a three-point shot and then Brionna Jones scored on a pretty drive to the basket to push the lead to 13 points.

The play began with a steal by Hiedeman, who found Williams, who waited until the right moment for Brionna Jones, who powered past a defender to the basket.

The Sparks never got any closer than 10 points the remainder of the contest.

“We got locked in and found a rhythm defensively in that second quarter,” Miller said. “We found some distruptions and began to turn them over. The more stops we got we were able to get our running game going.”

Brittney Sykes led the Sparks with 18 points while Nneka Ogwumike had 10 points and nine rebounds.

NOTES: For the second straight game, all 10 players for Connecticut played and all 10 scored. … Jonquel Jones had three blocks and began the all-time block leader for the Sun, passing the previous mark (267) set by Taj McWilliams-Franklin

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of The Collinsville Press. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 40 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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