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Sun win another elimination game, advance to face Liberty in semifinals

Connecticut;’s Alyssa Thomas tied a playoff career-high with 28 points in Wednesday night’s win over Minnesota in game 3 of their quarterfinal series.

The Connecticut Sun are one tough team to eliminate from the WNBA playoffs.

A year ago, the Sun beat the Dallas Wings in game three on the road to advance to the semifinals. In the next round against Chicago, the Sun won game four at home and beat the Sky on the road in game five to advance to the WNBA finals, erasing a nine-point deficit with 4:47 remaining and scoring the last 18 points of the game.

In the finals, the Sun beat the Las Vegas Aces in an elimination game before falling in game 4 as the Aces claimed the WNBA championship.

On Wednesday, the Sun won their fifth playoff elimination game in the last two seasons with a dominating 90-75 win over Minnesota to win their best-of-3 quarterfinal series, 2-1. No. 3 seed Connecticut advances to WNBA semifinals for the fifth consecutive year where they will face the No. 2 seed New York Liberty beginning Sunday in Brooklyn.

Alyssa Thomas tied a playoff career high with 28 points and dished out 12 assists while DeWanna Bonner scored 25 points, including three from three-point range. Ty Harris came off the bench to provide much-needed shooting expertise with a playoff-high 18 points, sinking four shots from three-point range.

Minnesota’s Napheesa Collier was tremendous for the Lynx with a game-high 31 points, sinking 11 of 19 shots. But the Sun shut down Kayla McBride, who helped the Lynx prevail in game two, thanks to defensive pressure from Connecticut’s Rebecca Allen. McBride finished with 10 points.

“We made their passes tougher. We let them pass the ball around the perimeter in game two and when they got into their actions, they were able to exploit us,” Sun coach Stephanie White said. “We forced them out of the rhythm a little bit, got them off their timing by trying to be disruptive on the perimeter.”

Added Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeves, “Credit to the Connecticut defense for making everything difficult for us.”

The Sun also rebounded well, outrebounding the Lynx, 35-29. Minnesota had only six offensive rebounds in the game.

Meanwhile, the Sun hit shots all night long. In the second quarter, the Lynx cut the Sun’s lead to one point with 7:55 remaining but Connecticut responded by sinking 11 of their final 13 shots of the second quarter to swell their lead to 15 points at the half.

Connecticut hit seven straight shots from the floor at one point in a 11-0 run with Thomas, Tiffany Hayes, Bonner and Harris all scoring baskets.

“They made their shots and we didn’t,” Minnesota’s Bridget Carleton said. “We had good looks (at the basket) and didn’t (score). They had hard looks and did (score).”

Bonner and Thomas, the two Sun veterans, were spectacular.

“They are two players that aren’t afraid of the moment. They aren’t afraid to make big plays. They’re not afraid to take the big shots,” White said. “Those two are playing out of position and have been since (Brionna Jones) injury (in June). They have just continued to rise to the challenge to be great leaders, tough competitors and step up with the moment is biggest.”

Thomas either scored or had an assist on 58 of Connecticut’s 90 points. Bonner had a game-high 10 points and three blocks.

Connecticut had an early 20-6 lead before the Lynx responded to cut the lead to seven after one quarter, 26-19. Minnesota scored the first six points of the second quarter to cut the Sun lead to one point, 26-25.

A jumper from Collier with 5:35 left in the second quarter cut Connecticut’s lead to three, 32-29. But the Sun hit their next seven shots from the floor. Thomas scored over two defenders in the lane, Harris drained a three-point shot after a nice dish from Thomas and then hit a jumper in the lane. Hayes drove to the basket and scored and Bonner scored off on the run thanks to a long pass from Thomas to give Connecticut a 14-point lead, 43-29 with 2:22 remaining in the first half.

The lead never dropped below 13 points for the remainder of the game and got as high as 19.

“This group has been faced adversity all season long,” White said. “They are resilient, They are tough minded and competitive.”

NOTES: Bonner became the fifth player in WNBA playoff history with 1,000 points, joining former Mercury teammate Diana Taurasi, Tamika Catchings, Candace Parker and Maya Moore in that exclusive club. …  Sun are 5-1 in their last six elimination games over the past two seasons. … Thomas once scored 28 points in a playoff game against Chicago last fall.

Connecticut 90, Minnesota 75
At Minnesota
Connecticut (90)
Allen 1-6 0-0 2, Bonner 8-3 6-9 25, Thomas 13-20 2-3 28, Hayes 3-7 0-0 7, Hiedeman 3-5 1-2 8, Carrington 0-2 0-0 0, Harris 7-11 0-0 18, Nelson-Ododa 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 36-65 9-14 90
Minnesota (75) Miller 2-6 1-2 6, Coller 11-19 7-8 31, Juhasz 1-4 2-3 4, McBride 3-12 2-2 10, Mitchell 3-6 0-0 6, Burnham 1-6 0-0 3, Carleton 4-5 3-4 13, Milic 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 26-60, 15-19 75
Connecticut         26  23  16  25  — 90
Minnesota           19  15  15  26  — 75
Three-point goals: Connecticut (9-14) Allen 0-3, Bonner 3-6, Hayes 1-3, Hiedeman 1-2, Harris 4-6; Minnesota (8-22) Miller 1-4, Collier 2-3, Juhasz 0-1, McBride 2-7, Burnham 1-3, Carleton 2-3, Milic 0-1). Attendance: 8724

WNBA quarterfinals (best of 3)
Wednesday, Sept. 13
Connecticut 90, Minnesota 60
Sunday, Sept. 17
Minnesota 82, Connecticut 75
Wednesday, Sept. 20
Connecticut 90, Minnesota 75, Sun win series 2-1

WNBA semifinals (best of 5)
Sunday, Sept. 24
Connecticut at New York, 1 p.m. (ESPN)
Tuesday, Sept. 26
Connecticut at New York, 8 p.m. (ESPN)
Friday, Sept. 29
New York at Connecticut, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
Sunday, Oct. 1
New York at Connecticut, 3 p.m. (ABC), if necessary
Tuesday, Oct. 3
Connecticut at New York, TBA, 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.

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