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Connecticut spoils final game for Lynx’s Sylvia Fowles with a win

Connecticut guard Natisha Hiedeman scored 15 points to help the Sun beat Minnesota Sunday at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

UNCASVILLE, Aug. 14, 2022 – The visiting Minnesota Lynx needed to win Sunday’s game at Connecticut to have any shot at securing a berth in the upcoming WNBA playoffs. It didn’t look good midway through the fourth quarter as the Sun built an 18-point lead and cleared the bench.

But the Lynx went on a 14-2 run to cut the lead to four before the Sun reinserted their starters and pulled away from Minnesota with a 90-83 victory on the final day of the regular season.

With 4:07 remaining, Connecticut’s Alyssa Thomas hit a jumper to extend the lead to six and when the Lynx’s Napheesa Collier missed a long three-point shot, it was Thomas who ripped down the rebound. She quickly moved up court and fed Courtney Williams, who hit a 15-foot jumper and the lead was back to eight points in the span of 25 seconds.

As Thomas moved up court, she subtly waved goodbye to the Lynx with a smile on her face. Thomas had 16 points, seven rebounds and five assists as Connecticut finished 25-11, one game behind Chicago and Las Vegas, who tied for the best record in the league at 26-10.

The Sun, who earned the No. 3 seed in the WNBA playoffs, will face No. 6 Dallas with game one of the best-of-three series on Thursday night at the Mohegan Sun Arena beginning at 8 p.m.

Not only did the Lynx miss the playoffs but they had to say goodbye to future Hall of Fame Sylvia Fowles, who played in her final professional contest. Fowles, the 6-foot-6 center from LSU, finished with 10 points and a game-high 12 rebounds.

With those 12 rebounds against the Sun, she became the first player in WNBA history to pull down 4,000 career rebounds and led the league in rebounding this year, her final season, with 9.8 caroms a game.

Minnesota’s Sylvia Fowles goes to the basket during Sunday’s loss to the Sun.

“She is an absolute legend in our game,” Sun coach and general manager Curt Miller said. “She has never received her flowers and the credit she deserves. She is so dominant at both ends of the floor. She has been one of the premier defenders. On offense, she is the toughest cover in the league. She is just so powerful and strong and athletic. It has been a pleasure to try and scheme and coach against her.”

Drafted with the No. 2 pick by Chicago in 2008, Fowles played 14 years in the league, won two WNBA titles with Minnesota, was the league MVP in 2017 and was the defensive player of the year four times, most recently in 2021. She won four gold medals with the U.S. women’s Olympic team.

The 7,489 fans at the Mohegan Sun Arena cheered for Fowles in pregame ceremonies when the Sun presented her with several gifts. They were louder in the final minute when she walked off the floor for the final time and into the arms of Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve and her teammates.

“The fans were amazing tonight I tried to channel all of that momentum,” Fowles said. “I appreciate the the love I got from the fans this year. I never got that the first 14 years (in the league). To see that all come together in my last year, I am very appreciative.”

Reeve was emotional in a post-game press conference, stopping a few times to gather her thoughts.

“There will never be another Sylvia Fowles,” Reeve said. “And it’s not just the points and rebounds, which are pretty impressive, but the way she did it with the love she has not just for people but the love she has for the organization. Life without her will (stink).”

Natisha Hiedeman, who drained four of eight from three-point range, scored 15 points along with Brionna Jones for the Sun. Jonquel Jones added 12 points while Williams scored 10.

Lindsay Allen, who was averaging 4.3 points per game, had a game- and career-high 26 points with six assists. She was 6-of-7 from the three-point line. Ariel Powers added 22 points and pulled down eight rebounds for Minnesota (14-22).

NOTES: Game two of Connecticut’s first round playoff series with Dallas will be Sunday, Aug. 21, at noon, at the Mohegan Sun Arena, with game three, if necessary, set for Wednesday, Aug. 24 in Dallas. The higher seed gets the first two games at home in the first round.

The semifinals and finals are best of 5 series. … The Sun finished the season with eight wins in their last 10 games. … Connecticut’s starting five of Thomas, Dewanna Bonner, Jonquel Jones, Hiedeman and Williams wanted to go back into the game in the final minutes and secure the win, according to Miller. They lobbied him to let them go back onto the court, he said in the post-game press conference.

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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