Sun finish up strong

Alex Bentley of the Sun, right, shoots over Jasmine Thomas of the Dream during the second half of Sunday's WNBA game at Mohegan Sun Arena. The Sun won 84-55.
Alex Bentley of the Sun, right, shoots over Jasmine Thomas of the Dream during the second half of Sunday's WNBA game at Mohegan Sun Arena. The Sun won 84-55.

Mohegan - The Connecticut Sun lost a tough one to the New York Liberty on June 29, and Alex Bentley spent a few minutes afterward in the locker room with her head in her hands.

Bentley stood across from the Mohegan Sun Arena interview room after a loss later in the season, waiting for Connecticut coach Anne Donovan to exit so that she could apologize for her play. Bentley's angst was evidence by her foot thumping the floor like a heavy metal drummer hammering the bass drum.

Say what you will about the Sun this season, but they cared. They cared a lot.

"I hate to lose. I really do," Bentley said after Connecticut concluded its season Sunday with an 84-55 squashing of listless Atlanta before 7,689 at Mohegan Sun Arena.

"I've been a competitor since I started playing at the age of four or five," Bentley added. "That competitive fire, it's in me and that drives me."

Bentley had a game-high 19 points and four assists for the Sun.

"She is about as competitive as I've seen," Donovan said. "(Her) greatest strength is her greatest weakness. Being such a competitor and not performing at the level you think you should, not hitting the shots you think you should, tends to get Alex into the negative. ... but I love that. It's very hard to teach somebody to be that competitive; to care that much."

Connecticut finished last in the Eastern Conference (13-21), its second-worst season in franchise history. It also missed the playoffs for the second straight season.

The Sun will have a 28-percent chance of winning Thursday's WNBA Draft Lottery. They have both its first-round pick and New York's, acquired in an April trade for All-Star center Tina Charles.

Angel McCoughtry (10 points) was the only player in double figures for Atlanta (19-15). It'll be the East's top seed in this week's playoffs.

Circumstances forced Connecticut to go young this season after veterans Kara Lawson and Charles wanted out.

The locker room was far more cohesive this year and filled with youthful exuberance, but the inexperience hurt on the court.

Chiney Ogwumike finished making her case for Rookie of the Year honors with 14 points and seven rebounds for the Sun. Fellow rookie Alyssa Thomas added 13 points and four assists and reserve Renee Montgomery added eight points and six assists.

Bentley was another one of the newbies this season, acquired from Washington in a trade for Lawson. The second-year guard improved her field goal percentage from .398 to .433 year and averaged 12.2 points.

It's no coincidence that Connecticut's six-game winning streak in June was during one of Bentley's best shooting stretches of the season. She earned Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors for the week of June 9-15.

The Sun lost 15 of their last 20 games.

"It's a work in progress," Bentley said. "We were all new this year. We didn't have as much experience because we are such a young team. Now with this experience under our belt, it's really nice.

"It's bittersweet right now. Obviously, we aren't where we wanted to be at the end of season, but we finished strong. I'm proud of my teammates for that."

Bentley revved up Connecticut on Sunday as she scored six during a 10-0 run in the first quarter.

Her layup gave the Sun a 19-9 lead with over five minutes left in the quarter, and they led the rest of the game.

"Winning feels so much better," Bentley smiled. "We're good. We're in a good place right now."

n.griffen@theday.com
Twitter: @metalned

Jasmine Thomas of the Dream and Danielle McCray of the Sun, right, chase down a loose ball during the second half of Sunday's WNBA game at Mohegan Sun Arena. The Sun won 84-55.
Jasmine Thomas of the Dream and Danielle McCray of the Sun, right, chase down a loose ball during the second half of Sunday's WNBA game at Mohegan Sun Arena. The Sun won 84-55.

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