Remaining healthy players lead Sun to victory
Mohegan - Perhaps it seemed like the season ended last week for the Connecticut Sun. It was eliminated from playoff contention and already set a single-season franchise record for losses.
It looked as if the dismal vibes would continue, as the Sun had just eight healthy players dressed for Friday's game against the Washington Mystics. The four injured players: starters Kelly Faris, Allison Hightower, Kara Lawson and, new to the team's ever-expanding injury list, 2012 WNBA Most Valuable Player Tina Charles.
Yet there was Tan White chasing down Tayler Hill in the closing minutes of the game. Hill was about to turn a steal into a sure transition layup when White caught up to her and slapped the ball away and out of bounds, causing her teammates to go wild.
White tied her career high with 26 points and added six assists as the Sun Eight pulled off a gritty 77-70 win before 5,611 at Mohegan Sun Arena. It snapped a seven-game losing streak and prevented Washington from clinching a playoff berth.
Connecticut's 14-point lead had been cut to 72-68 when White made her block with 2 minutes, 13 seconds left in the game.
"It looked like they were going on a little bit of a run there," White said. "I was just trying to hustle and not give up any easy points; just playing hard with pride and not trying to give away anything."
Kelsey Griffin added 17 points for the Sun (8-22) and Mistie Bass had eight points and 10 rebounds.
"At this point, we're playing because we have nothing to lose," Bass said. "This group is not the type to lay down and die. Stuff happens. The season happened the way it did, but it doesn't mean we have to end that way.
"I feel like the group we have playing is going to work hard because at the end of the day you still have to have some sort of pride. You're not just going to go out and be there. I don't think that epitomizes what us as players should represent in the WNBA."
Renee Montgomery (14 points) was the other Connecticut player to score in double figures.
Crystal Langhorne had 16 points and 11 rebounds for the Mystics (14-16).
It was announced before the game that Charles would not play the final five games due to an assortment of nagging injuries, including her knee. The Sun had already shut down both Faris (left foot) and Hightower (strained right knee) on Aug. 20.
The Sun, undeterred, took an early 8-0 lead. White began the game with five straight points, causing Washington head coach Mike Thibault to call a timeout just 38 seconds into the contest.
"I think we didn't look by (Connecticut) at all because we knew that we had a chance to clinch a playoff spot. That should've been enough energy," said Thibault, who coached Connecticut the previous 10 seasons before being fired last November.
"I just thought we were soft defensively on Tan at the start and it got them energized and it gave them some confidence."
Griffin's three-point play gave the Sun a 68-54 edge with over seven minutes left in the game, its biggest lead.
"I'm so proud of that effort from those eight," Connecticut coach Anne Donovan said. "They just played so well and so hard, followed the game plan and just hustled from beginning to end despite Washington's runs. I'm just really proud of their effort."