Sports

Sky too much for the Sun

Jones has 25 and 11, but it's not enough as they are eliminated

All season long, the Chicago Sky has been a thorn in the side of the Connecticut Sun.

It couldn’t be more evident than in their Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) semifinal series as the sixth-seeded Sky derailed the Sun’s championship hopes, taking them out in four games in the best-of-five series.

The Sky won the series three games to one, taking game four 79-69 last night at the Wintrust Arena in Chicago, Illinois.

Held to 13.3 points per game in the first three games of the series – six points below her season average – Bahamian women’s professional player Jonquel “JJ” Jones exploded for a game-high 25 points and added 11 rebounds last night but it wouldn’t be enough as the Sky kept everyone else in check.

With the exception of explosive performances in the first and fourth games of the series, the league’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) was pretty much held in check against the Sky, matching a playoff career-low four in game two and barely scratching double digits in game three. She had 26 in the opening game of the series and 25 last night while shooting 10-for-18 from the floor and 2-for-4 from three-point land. In addition to her 25 and 11 last night, she had two assists, two steals and two blocks for a strong all-around effort.

The 27-year-old MVP came into this season focused on winning a WNBA title, particularly after coming within one game of that feat in 2019 and after sitting out last season due to coronavirus concerns.

The Sky took two out of three against the Sun during the regular season – one of only two teams in the league to win a season series against the top-seeded pennant-winning Sun this year.

In a complete wire-to-wire performance on Wednesday, the Sky cruised past their Eastern Conference counterparts, leading by as many as 18 points in the game, and coasting to victory in the fourth.

After the Sky went up 65-47 in the third on a 23-foot three-point jumper from Candace Parker, the Sun showed a sense of urgency and closed the quarter on an 11-0 scoring run but had little left in the fourth. The Sky scored five in a row to open the fourth and the lead never got to within double digits again.

Natisha Hiedeman was a bright spot for the Sun, coming off the bench to score 16 points including five three-point shots, but she and Jones got very little help from their teammates. Jasmine Thomas played all 40 minutes but shot just 3-for-14 from the floor including 1-for-6 from three-point range. She had 11 points, five rebounds and three assists.

No other player scored in double figures for the Sun.

The other Thomas, Alyssa, shot just 3-for-10 from the floor and finished with seven points. Brionna Jones, the league’s Most Improved Player this year, finished with just six, and DeWanna Bonner tallied just four.

Courtney Vandersloot was special again for the Sun – pouring in a side-high 19 points and adding four rebounds and four assists. Kahleah Copper added 18 points and Parker powered in 17 and added nine rebounds, seven assists, two steals and two blocks. Azura Stevens dropped in 11.

The Sky got off to a fast start and never looked back. They raced out to a 13-2 lead in the opening minutes and were ahead 32-26 after one as the Sun’s defense struggled. The Sky continued to keep the pressure on in the second quarter, quickly getting the lead back up to double digits and took a 13-point cushion, 54-41, into the half.

The Sun scored six in a row to open the scoring in the second half, but the Sky responded with an 11-0 run to take their biggest lead of the game. It was a quarter of runs as the Sun closed it on an 11-0 spurt to close the gap to seven, 65-58 going into the fourth.

The Sky scored five in a row to start the fourth and final period and didn’t let the Sun gain any momentum afterwards.

The Sun shot just 38.1 percent from the floor, making 24 of 63 shots while the Sky finished at 44.4 percent, knocking down 28 of 63 shots.

With the exception of Jones and Hiedeman, the Sun struggled. The rest of the team shot just 9-for-38 from the field – a woeful 23.7 percent.

The Sky will now head to their third WNBA Finals, and will attempt to win their first championship. They will take on the winner of the series between the second-seeded Las Vegas Aces and the fifth-seeded Phoenix Mercury. Game four of that series was held last night with the Mercury leading two games to one. The result was unavailable up to press time.

The WNBA Finals will get underway on Sunday October 10.

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Sheldon Longley

Sheldon Longley joined The Nassau Guardian in January 2001 as a sports reporter. He was promoted to sports editor in 2008. Sheldon has an extensive background in sports reporting. He covered three Olympic Games and three world championships, along with multiple smaller regional and local games.

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