Sun top Wings to clinch WNBA playoff berth

Mohegan — Courtney Williams was asked about coming through offensively for the Connecticut Sun in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 78-68 win over the Dallas Wings.

“I’m a bucket,” Williams said. “Once I hit one shot, I’m going to keep going crazy. And my teammates saw that, they were setting me nice screens and getting the ball in my hands. So I had to deliver.”

A bucket?

“Yeah,” Williams said. “You know what I mean. A walking bucket. That’s me.”

Williams (18 points) made a lot of buckets in that fourth quarter. She scored 12 of Connecticut's 21 points that period as Connecticut clinched its third straight WNBA playoff berth before 7,275 at Mohegan Sun Arena.

The Sun (19-8) officially qualified for the playoffs once the league-leading Washington Mystics got through charbroiling the Indiana Fever, 107-68, minutes before they finished their game against the Wings.

What made the win more impressive was that it was the Sun’s fifth game in 10 days. They didn’t play like a tired team, though. They led for all but 1 minute, 22 seconds, shot 46.9 percent, and held Dallas to 37.3 percent.

“This game, I had a little more energy,” Williams said. “Now that (Friday) game against Seattle, that one was crazy. I feel like you could tell. We gutted it out (a late 79-78 win), but, man, I think that one took a lot out of us.

“This game, I felt pretty good.”

It was also the Sun’s second game since Thursday’s 14-hour road trip back from Phoenix.

“Really proud of these guys,” Connecticut head coach Curt Miller said. “When we got the (season) schedule, I was trying to appeal to the league any way I could to try to get something changed, knowing how difficult it was going to be in August (to play five games in 10 days).

“That’s an impressive, gutty performance. Until someone goes through that, you don’t know how tough that is playing five games in 10 days coming back from the west coast. ... So I’m really proud that we got to the finish line tonight.”

Jasmine Thomas had 16 points and nine assists for Connecticut and Jonquel Jones had 16 points and 10 rebounds. Alyssa Thomas had nine points, seven rebounds and four assists, Shekinna Stricklen had nine points and five rebounds, and Williams added six rebounds.

Allisha Gray had 22 points and five rebounds for the Wings (9-18) and Notre Dame rookie Arike Ogunbowale scored 20.

The Sun are in second place in the overall WNBA standings and one game behind Washington (20-7). They own the head-to-head tiebreaker against the Mystics.

Connecticut wants to earn one of the top two teams in the overall standings because it would get a double bye to the best-of-five semifinal round of the playoffs. The first two rounds are single elimination.

The Sun have lost in the second round the last two seasons at home to the Phoenix Mercury.

Dallas, which had won three in a row despite being shorthanded due to injuries and suspensions, hung around until late in the game. Gray’s 3-pointer cut the Sun’s lead to 67-61 with 5:43 remaining.

Williams 21-foot jumper started an 11-2 Connecticut run. She scored six during that run, including a 20-foot shot that gave Connecticut its largest lead, 78-63, with 1:47 remaining.

And now the Sun get to rest. ... for two days before returning to practice Wednesday.

“Everybody is banged up,” Miller said.

n.griffen@theday.com

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