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    Wednesday, September 27, 2023

    Sun continue their penchant for ‘winning plays’ in 80-74 victory over Wings

    In this May 21 file photo, the Connecticut Sun’s DeWanna Bonner (24) attempts a basket over Elena Delle Donne of the Washington Mystics (11) during a WNBA game at Mohegan Sun Arena. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Mohegan — DeWanna Bonner hit a 3-point field goal from the left-hand corner in the first quarter Sunday and was knocked to the ground in the process, allowing her the opportunity for a momentum-building four-point play on the ensuing foul shot.

    As Bonner rose from the floor, her arms by her sides, she let out a scream of jubilation. She then hit the free throw, giving the Connecticut Sun a nine-point lead against the Dallas Wings before 5,012 fans at Mohegan Sun Arena.

    The Sun began a three-game homestand with an 80-74 victory over the Wings, led by Bonner’s 22 points, Alyssa Thomas’s sixth double-double in seven games and a noteworthy defensive performance from Natisha Hiedeman on Dallas leading scorer Arike Ogunbowale, limiting Ogunbowale to a season-low eight points.

    “Thank God it went in,” Bonner said of her reaction to the 3-pointer which led to the four-point play. “I don’t know, I’ve just been struggling a little bit shooting this year. My teammates keep telling me, my coaches keep telling me to shoot it, so to hit that shot and gain a little bit of confidence, that was huge for me and my teammates.

    “The first few games it was really rough. I was kind of hard on myself. So to see that go in, I was just like, ‘I got y’all. Just be patient with me. It’s coming. It’s coming.’”

    Bonner, despite the critique of her own shooting, led the Sun (6-1) in scoring for the third time this season, finishing with 22 points.

    Brionna Jones had 21 points, eight rebounds, three assists and three steals, Tiffany Hayes 17 points and Thomas had 13 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.

    The Sun led 23-13 after the first quarter, with Bonner scoring on the front end of a fast break on an assist from Hayes early, and Connecticut ran its way to a 44-30 lead at halftime.

    Connecticut led by as many as 17 on a drive by Thomas that made it 49-32 near the start of the fourth quarter. Dallas pulled to within four with 15.3 seconds left in the game but the Sun got two free throws from Hayes with 8.1 seconds remaining to put the game out of reach.

    “Dallas is a team that’s gritty, they’re tough, they can score, they can defend,” Connecticut head coach Stephanie White said. “In the second half, they made runs, we didn’t execute in all the ways we wanted to, but we still made winning plays when we needed to make winning plays.

    “That’s a tribute to the players we have on the floor.”

    While offensively the play of the game and infusion of energy came from the veteran Bonner, a 6-foot-4 forward in her 14th season in the league, the Sun has also relied proudly on its defense, a carry-over from last season’s team which reached the WNBA Finals.

    On Sunday, Hiedeman drew the assignment to defend Ogunbowale, the former Notre Dame player who was recently named the WNBA’s Western Conference Player of the Month and came into Mohegan Sun Arena averaging 23.8 points per game.

    Hiedeman, who played 35-plus minutes, limited Ogunbowale to 3 of 16 shooting, 0 for 5 from 3-point range.

    Satou Sabally led Dallas with 26 points and 14 rebounds and former UConn point guard Crystal Dangerfield had 13 points and one assist before being helped from the floor with an apparent ankle injury in the third quarter. Dangerfield did not return.

    Hiedeman did not score.

    “I’m really proud of her,” White said of Hiedeman. “There are not a lot of players that are willing to sacrifice offense for defense and there are going to be some nights where you have to do that. She didn’t shoot the ball particularly well, but that didn’t matter. She exhausted herself defensively. She did her job. She did what she was asked to do.”

    “I think we’ve got a really smart group,” Bonner said. “I think we had a good group last year defensively; this year we just have a lot of gritty people that want to play defense. ... We know we have a lot of offensive power but if we lock in on defense, I really believe that this team is pretty much unstoppable.”

    With seven made free throws, Thomas became the Sun’s all-time leader in free throws made (693), passing Linsday Whalen (691). Bonner’s three 3-pointers gave her 500 for her career.

    The Sun now take on the Western Conference-leading and defending WNBA champion Las Vegas Aces (6-0) in back-to-back games Tuesday and Thursday at Mohegan Sun, both scheduled for 7 p.m. starts.


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