'Hometown Heroes' are close to the heart of Sun's Rachel Banham

Mohegan — A helpful tip to anyone who might ever interact with Rachel Banham: Don’t lie. She knows when you’re lying.

“I feel like I can talk to people and figure (them out) pretty well,” Banham said. “My friends tell me that.

“I definitely know when people are lying or being suspicious. I get that from my parents.”

The Connecticut Sun are celebrating “Hometown Heroes Night” as part of Friday night’s game against the WNBA-leading Seattle Storm (Mohegan Sun Arena, NBCSB, 7), honoring the contributions made by military personnel and first responders.

Banham can relate to their sacrifices, having been raised by parents who both worked for the Minneapolis police department.

Don Banham, Rachel's father, worked 29 years on the force and retired in 2011 as a captain who was leading the department’s gang crimes intelligence unit. His father, Don Sr., became the first black police officer on the University of Minnesota police department in 1958.

Rachel's mom, Melissa Banham, is a sergeant and previous worked in the sex crime division.

“I actually job-shadowed her in high school and it was really interesting and sad,” Rachel Banham said. “It’s a lot (to handle).”

Discipline, as one would expect, was a constant in the Banham household. Rachel and her siblings, Cole, Blake and Paige, were routinely lectured about right and wrong and how to stay safe. Staying out late was not an option.

“(Dad) always said nothing good happens after midnight, so he never wanted me out (late),” Banham said. “My friends would all be running around and doing whatever and my dad was like, ‘no, you’re not doing that.’

“I grew up in a strict home, but it ended up being good. I feel like I learned a lot growing up. I’m a better adult now, learning those (life's lessons) earlier than my friends. Some people do dumb things and that won’t even register with me to do.”

The Sun are teaming Friday with FOX 61, which monthly recognizes first responders and military personnel as part of its “Proud to Serve” segments. Honorees will be guests at the game. Jill Kidik, a Hartford police officer, will be recognized at halftime for her contributions to the community.

“Whenever I run into security or police around here, I always introduce myself and say, ‘Hi’ and say, ‘thanks for your work,’” Banham said.

Seattle (17-6) has been the WNBA’s most efficient team this season, most especially on offense. It led the league in shooting percentage (.470) and points per possession (1.081) prior to Thursday night’s game.

Breanna Stewart has played at an MVP level for the Storm. She’s averaged a league-leading 22.9 points and was sixth in rebounding (8.2) and seventh in blocks (1.6). Sue Bird continues to do Sue Bird things in her 16th season (7.3 apg), too.

Efficiency has been a problem for Connecticut and resulted in two astonishing home losses at the buzzer on long 3-pointers over its last four games.

The most recent loss was Tuesday. Tiffany Hayes had a steal with less than 3 seconds left in regulation and made a shot from behind the halfcourt line to give the Atlanta Dream an 86-83 win.

“We had four possessions up (79-72 with 5 minutes, 15 seconds left) and turned the ball over two of those next four possessions,” Connecticut coach Curt Miller said. “They scored eight points in the last 3 1/2 minutes off of our turnovers and that was the difference.”

The Sun (12-11) are in eighth place in the overall standings with 11 games remaining. The top eight teams make the playoffs, with the top two seeds getting a double-bye to the best-of-three semifinals.

The third and fourth seeds get a bye to the quarterfinals which, like the first round, is single elimination.

“Let’s say we were fortunate enough to win those recent home games,” Miller said. “We’re sitting here right now tied for third and talking about this game as maybe (one) that leads to who is going to get the double-bye.

“Now we’re talking about can we hold off (ninth-place Las) Vegas for the final playoff spot because of two last-second shots? That’s how close this playoff race is.”

• Military personnel and first responders who provide proper ID may purchase a $16 ticket for Friday’s game by purchasing tickets at the box office on game night. Call 1-877-SUN-TIXX for more information.

n.griffen@theday.com

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