Published September 24. 2012 4:00AM
Mohegan - Mike Thibault admitted he considered getting ejected Sunday afternoon, following his technical foul and ensuing conniption over an officiating decision.
The crowd of 9,143 on Fan Appreciation Day loved it. Turns out it was a mere appetizer on what would become one of the all-time feel-good days in the history of Mohegan Sun Arena.
In the following sequence, with the arena still buzzing, the officials whistled Atlanta for an offensive foul. It prompted Thibault to wave his arms in the air frantically, exhorting the crowd, drawing a standing ovation.
Now there's a man who so badly wants to deliver a championship.
The Sun completed Step One - a 25-9 record and one of the most successful regular seasons in franchise history - with a 92-72 win over Atlanta. The players get today off before beginning preparations for Thursday's best-of-three playoff series with New York.
"I was emotional because I wanted our players to understand that you're going to have bad things happen against you in the playoffs," Thibault said. "You need to fight through it and get the crowd at home jacked up. You need to make a big play. We made two plays right after (the technical) diving on the floor.
"I wanted our fans to understand that it was important. They help us," Thibault said. "It's kind of a two-way street. Get the fans excited and they'll get you excited."
The fans weren't done leaving their seats, either. Late in the game, public address announcer John Tuite alerted the crowd that Kara Lawson had just made her 74th 3-pointer of the season, a franchise record. Lawson, who pledged $50 for every made 3-pointer this season to the Pat Summitt Foundation to fight Alzheimer's disease, was given a standing ovation, too.
Lawson finished with 21 points and eight rebounds.
Tina Charles, meanwhile, had nine rebounds and won her third straight WNBA rebounding title, barely edging Sylvia Fowles (10.5-10.4 per game). Charles, who scored 17 points, also set a franchise record, averaging 18 points per game.
Charles also grinned at the thought of her coach's outburst.
"I'm used to it," she said. "He was getting crowd pumped up. It's good for the fans to see that. It'll make them want to come back for more."
Lawson addressed the crowd after the game, urging them to come back for more, starting with Thursday's playoff game.
The Sun's victory gave them the season series (3-1) over Atlanta. They became the first team in WNBA history to win every season series over the teams in their conference.
The Sun's 25th win also ensured they would have home court in the finals over every other team except defending champion Minnesota.
"Other than Minnesota, we've taken care of all the other kinds of particulars you can," Thibault said. "Now we go play one at a time starting Thursday. It's satisfying. I'm happy for Kara to get the franchise record and for Tina to get the franchise record. Those don't mean a lot to me but they mean a lot as to how those two have performed."
Kalana Greene added 12 points for the Sun, who shot 51 percent from the field.
Asjha Jones, slowly recovering from a strained Achilles,' scored four points in just under 12 minutes. Thibault is hopeful she can play more minutes Thursday.
"The biggest thing for her is the halftime break when (the Achilles') gets a little stiff," Thibault said. "We'll try to keep working on that. In another four or five days, she'll be better than she is now."