September 9, 2022 

Daily Briefing — Sept. 9, 2022: SKYFALL — Connecticut Sun eliminate Chicago Sky, advance to finals

Plus, some reflections for Skytown — Love, the Sacramento Monarchs

Happy Friday! Welcome to The Next’s Daily Briefing, featuring Yesterday’s Recap. Day 11 of the WNBA post-season has passed, as we leave behind the reigning champion Chicago Sky. Thursday night’s all-or-nothing match was about as chaotic of a game as they come. With a back-and-forth first half, five jump balls in the second half, technical fouls called and then erased minutes later, and a crowd on the edge of their seats for all 40 minutes, you’d be hard pressed to find a grittier and more dramatic playoff game this season (so far, at least.) Unfortunately for the Sky, a double-digit third-quarter lead quickly disintegrated into a nine-point deficit, as they put up just five points in the final 10 minutes.

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Despite featuring some of the most chaotic basketball I’ve seen so far this year, the Sun were able to cobble together a 24-point fourth quarter, taking back the lead and then some as Chicago struggled to respond. Ultimately, even with a 22-point performance from Kahleah Copper and key momentum-shifting plays from Emma Meesseman in the third quarter, last night was the end of the road for the Sky. For the Sun, who will advance to the finals and face the Las Vegas Aces for an opportunity to grab their first championship in franchise history, the journey continues.

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But, hey, I have some good news for Skytown. Even though Chicago scored just five points in the fourth quarter, the Sky did not set a new post-season record low (though, admittedly, they were the first to score that little in a playoff fourth quarter in 16 years). And as a bonus, Candace Parker finished fifth in post-season history for total blocks, and second for total defensive rebounds. But, if you’ll allow me to nag on California basketball for just a few lines, perhaps I can boost your moods a bit more.

It’s Game 4 of the 2006 finals, and the Sacramento Monarchs had a chance to take the series after beating the Detroit Shock by 30 in Game 3. By most accounts, the Monarchs had all the momentum in the world: they had four players in double digits, at least six players with 2+ assists, and had forced every Shock player not named Deanna Nolan to try and beat them. They’d effectively embarrassed one of the hottest post-season teams in the league in front of an eager Sacramento home crowd. Not to mention, the Monarchs were the defending champs, having beat none other than the Connecticut Sun in the previous year’s finals.

With the city on their shoulders and hopes of being the next team to win back-to-back championships, the Monarchs returned to home court for Game 4, which, if they played it right, could be their decider. What follows, unfortunately, might sound a bit familiar.

After a back-and-forth first half, and an even fiercer third quarter, Sacramento was just six points behind Detroit — not ideal, but not outside of their abilities. And then, disaster struck. In what would become the lowest scoring fourth quarter since they they were introduced, the Monarchs took 12 shots and made just one, a neat hook shot from Yolanda Griffith. Detroit rallied on, winning the game by 20 and eventually the championship after a much closer Game 5.

Though that season could be considered Sacramento’s last hurrah before two early-playoff exits in 2007 and 2008, and then folding in 2009, I highly doubt the Sky are going anywhere. Their past two seasons have proven that women’s basketball occupies a significant space in Chicago, and that folks care immensely about their team. Ultimately what the future holds for the Sky, only time will tell.

(Oh hey Connecticut fans! Nice to see you. I’ll have plenty for y’all tomorrow, don’t you worry. To hold you over until then, I gift you this image from the unstoppable Chris Poss, who has diligently photographed the Sun all season long. The drama in this photo is simply impeccable.)

Connecticut Sun big wing Alyssa Thomas (25) with Chicago Sky big Candace Parker (3) in the background during a Semifinal game at Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, Conn., USA on Sept. 4, 2022. (Photo Credit: Chris Poss)

Next, read:

  • Our Jackie Powell details the growth of the New York Liberty franchise over this season, and their relationship with head coach Sandy Brondello.
  • Our Michelle Smith makes her debut at The Next with a thoughtful profile of one of women’s basketball’s finest, M.A. Voepel, who is set to receive the Curt Gowdy Media Award this weekend.
  • AdWeek’s Mollie Cahillane spoke with WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert about progress on the upcoming media rights deals.
  • USA Today’s Nancy Armour spoke with Aces owner Mark Davis about Las Vegas’ championship push, media rights and his history with women’s basketball.

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Recap, Thursday, Sept. 8 — Semifinals

Connecticut beat Chicago, 72–63, to win the series 3–2. Connecticut took the early lead, mounting a nine-point lead by the late first quarter. But, the second quarter saw a complete role reversal from the first, as the Sky went on an 11–4 run to cut the lead to one, eventually tying the game at 40 apiece. Coming out of halftime, Chicago would out-score Connecticut by 10 and grab a significant advantage. Yet, the Sun would respond in kind, leaping out ahead on a 22–2 run as they continued to work at their pace in the paint and on the boards. Overall, the Sun shot 11.5 percentage points better from the field and 41.7 percentage points better from the free throw line than the Sky. Connecticut also won the rebounding battle by 15 and assisted on seven more of their shots.

For Connecticut, big wing DeWanna Bonner notched 15 points on 4-for-8 shooting (1–3 3pt, 6–6 FT), nine rebounds and five assists. Big Jonquel Jones logged a double-double of 15 points on 5-for-13 from the field (5–5 FT) and 10 rebounds, along with two assists, two steals and two blocks against seven turnovers. Point guard Natisha Hiedeman contributed 14 points on 6-for-12 shooting (1–3 3pt.), three rebounds and four assists. Big wing Alyssa Thomas had a near triple-double of 12 points on 4-for-11 shooting (4–4 FT), 10 rebounds and eight assists on four turnovers.

Sky wing Kahleah Copper led all scorers with 22 points on 8-for-19 shooting (3–5 3pt., 3–5 FT), two rebounds, two assists and four steals. Big Emma Meesseman notched 14 points on 6-for-14 from the field, six rebounds (four offensive) and two assists. Off-ball guard Allie Quigley had three points on 1-for-12 shooting (0–6 3pt.), eight rebounds, seven assists and two steals. Big Candace Parker had seven points on 2-for-7 shooting (2–3 3pt.), nine rebounds, three assists, three steals and four block on four turnovers.

Written by Isabel Rodrigues

Isabel Rodrigues (she/her) is a contributing editor for The Next from upstate New York. She occasionally covers 3x3 and labor in women's basketball.

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