UNCASVILLE, Conn. — The roaring sounds of a packed house at Mohegan Sun for Game 4 of the WNBA Finals on Tuesday night made it hard to hear what Courtney Williams was shouting. She was center court surrounded by teammates following their 90-86 win to push the series against the Washington Mystics to a decisive Game 5, and even with a microphone in hand, the noise was too much.
Her voice broke through, if only for a second. “They didn’t believe we’d be here,” Williams said to the crowd. She was referring to the team’s tagline all season that they’d been disrespected and overlooked by fans and the league. She then leaped into the clutch of her father, which set off one last rumbling of cheers from Sun fans. They’re 40 minutes away from seeing their first-ever WNBA championship.
Of course it was this Connecticut Sun team that clawed back against the best offense in WNBA history to force a winner-takes-all finale for a title. Coming into the Finals, nobody could picture the team that’d lost by 43 points to the Mystics in June standing a chance in a five-game series. But Connecticut is a sports cliche personified, and is made to pull off such a monstrous upset.
Bluntly, the Sun don’t give a damn who you are and never have. You can tell precisely that after every Alyssa Thomas drive trucking to the basket or Williams shriek to the sidelines after a made bucket. They don’t care what metrics say, or what Vegas’ odds give them. They don’t care if you don’t think they have a superstar. They don’t care if your team is better at shooting. They come out bruising until the buzzer sounds.
For the first 20 minutes on Tuesday, living out the cliches made all the difference. Jonquel Jones crashed the boards harder than LaToya Sanders and Elena Delle Donne. Thomas out-muscled Natasha Cloud and Emma Meesseman on her way to the basket. Jasmine Thomas, the team’s weakest offensive link, took open threes in stride. And Williams terrorized in the mid-range.
Then the Mystics cracked their code, turning a 16-point deficit into a four-point lead in the fourth quarter. Washington cheated the Sun’s incoming rotations and used Aerial Powers’ unparalleled athleticism to drive to the hoop. The teams traded three consecutive three-point shots in the final three minutes to break open the lead and then tie the game again.
Eventually succumbing to the Mystics’ disparity in talent, Connecticut’s back was against the wall. But the Sun were never going to lose this game. No way. They’ve cooked the underdog script all season long, and the final act was never going to be played out on such a sour note.
In the end, every player in Connecticut’s rotation had their moment of greatness to fend off the league’s season-long behemoth in the Mystics. Jones finished with 18 points and 13 rebounds, Thomas nearly triple-doubled with 17 points, 11 rebounds and eight rebounds. Williams chipped in 16 points with seven rebounds. And Stricklen and Thomas finished with 15 and 14 respectively. This is what Connecticut does.
Ironically, Sun head coach Curt Miller’s built a machine that’s nothing like him. He sat outside the team’s locker room after the win and watched on as his player’s unleashed their emotions into an echoing Mohegan Sun hallway. First, it was Shekinna Stricklen screaming “One more baby!” Then Natisha Hiedeman posing like Hercules before trotting inside.
And then Williams again, delivering the lines that’ll forever change how this Sun core is viewed so long as they remain on the same roster.
“They didn’t think we’d be here, man.