Connect with us


Bonner helps Sun beat Liberty to grab 1-0 lead in WNBA semifinals

Connecticut’s DeWanna Bonner had a game-high 20 points in Sunday’s win over New York in game 1 of the WNBA semifinals.

The Connecticut Sun were never able to solve the puzzle of the New York Liberty during the 2023 season. The Liberty won all four regular season games by an average of 15 points. In one August contest in Uncasville, New York erased a 20-point lead and beat the Sun in overtime.

But everything is fresh and new in the playoffs.

For the first time this season, the Sun played with a frenzied intensity for nearly all 40 minutes as they took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-5 WNBA semifinal series Sunday with a 78-63 win over New York at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

All-Stars Alyssa Thomas and DeWanna Bonner carried the Sun for most of the season. But on this afternoon, the Sun got significant contributions from other players dressed in orange – contributions that will be crucial to Connecticut’s chances of beating the Liberty in this series.

Bonner had a game-high 20 points, seven rebounds, one steal and three blocks to lead the Sun but Rebecca Allen had 18 points – a new career-high for her – along with seven rebounds, two steals and two blocks. Natisha Hiedeman had 12 points, including a pair of key three-point shots early in the third quarter, while veteran Tiffany Hayes had 12 points and seven rebounds and two assists.

The Liberty scored a season-low 68 points. Breanna Stewart led New York with 19 points, six rebounds and three assists. She sank just seven of 25 shots from the floor. Sabrina Ionescu was 4-of-14 and scored just 12. Game two in this series is Tuesday night at 8 p.m. at the Barclays Center.

“We came in and played the most consistent 40 minutes we’ve played all year, especially on the defensive end of the floor, being disruptive making things as difficult as possible for a really good offensive team,” Sun coach Stephanie White said. “We came together. We withstood their runs. Offensively, we shared the basketball and we were ultra competitive.”

Bonner scored 15 of her 20 points in the second half with three rebounds, three assists and two blocks. “Alyssa made me mad. I had to show her a little something,” Bonner said.

The Sun didn’t let take their foot off the gas, either, a lesson learned in that overtime loss to New York at the Mohegan Sun Arena after they coughed up a 20-point lead.

“We had to be incredibly disciplined (defensively) because they make you pay if you’re not,” White said. “They make you pay for every mistake. We just kept re-emphasizing the discipline defense, defending without fouling and finishing plays with rebounds. They are such an offensive juggernaut that we had to make things as difficult as possible and I felt our team really took ownership of that today.”

Connecticut got off to a strong start, leading 13-5 with eight points from Allen, who hit her first three shots from the field, including a pair of three-point shots. She also had two steals and a block in the first six minutes of the contest.

The Liberty finally caught up to the Sun in the final minutes of the second quarter, closing out the final six minutes of the first half with a 10-2 run to take a three-point lead at the half, 40-37.

The Sun got off to an even better start in the second half with a 16-2 run to take a 53-42 lead and force the Liberty to call timeout. Hiedeman hit a pair of crucial three-point shots in the run while Hayes, moving much better than she did in the final games of the Minnesota series, had a pair of driving layups.

New York cut the lead to five, 53-48, with 4:12 remaining but the Sun used a 12-7 run to grab a 65-55 lead after three quarters. Bonner had eight points in the third quarter along with a steal and a block.

“We hold everyone accountable in that (Sun) locker room,” Bonner said. “That is what it is. We hold everyone to the same standard.”

A quick 5-0 run to open up the fourth quarter extended Connecticut’s lead to 15 points, 70-55. Bonner scored all five points in that stretch. In the final 10 minutes, the Liberty made just 3-of-22 shots from the field.

“Defense is our identity,” White said. “The biggest thing is to be disruptive.”

Connecticut 78, New York 63
At New York
Connecticut (78) Allen 7-9 0-0 18, Bonner 6-9 6-6 20, Thomas 4-11 0-2 8, Hayes 6-15 0-0 12, Hiedeman 4-9 2-2 12, Carrington 0-2 0-0 0, Harris 2-2 0-0 4, Nelson-Ododa 2-2 0-0 4. Totals 31-69 8-10 78
New York (63) Laney 1-9 1-2 3, Stewart 7-25 5-6 19, Jones 5-8 3-4 14, Ionescu 4-14 0-0 12, Vandersloot 3-5 0-0 7, Thornton 2-3 0-0 6, Johannes 1-4 0-0 2, Dolson 0-0 0-0 0, Sabally 0-0 0-0 0 Totals 23-68 9-12 63
Connecticut                  25  12  28  13  — 78
New York                      21  19  15  8  — 63
Three-point goals: Connecticut 8-24 (Allen 4-6, Bonner 2-10, Thomas 0-1, Hayes 0-3, Hiedeman 2-4); New York 8-27 (Laney 0-3, Stewart 0-8, Jones 1-1, Ionescu 4-8, Vandersloot 1-1, Thornton 2-3)

WNBA semifinals
Sunday, Sept 24
Connecticut 78, New York 63, Sun lead series, 1-0
Tuesday, Sept. 26
Connecticut at New York, 8 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 29
New York at Connecticut, 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, Oct. 1
New York at Connecticut, 3 p.m.
Tuesday, Oct. 3
Connecticut at New York, if necessary

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.

More in WNBA