Sun

Sun Extinguish Hottest Team in the WNBA

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Inconsistent guard play has plagued the Connecticut Sun at times this season.

All-Stars Alyssa Thomas and DeWanna Bonner have held down the fort in the absence of Brionna Jones, but finding a reliable third and fourth scoring option has proven difficult.

On Thursday afternoon, however, Natisha Hiedeman gave the Sun just the boost they needed. The 5’8 point guard went off for 20 points in the third quarter, breaking the franchise’s single-quarter scoring record. A record previously held by Courtney Williams, who dropped 16 versus the Washington Mystics on 6/18/18.

The crowd in Mohegan Sun Arena erupted as she nailed her final triple of the quarter with just a second left on the shot clock. Hiedeman jumped in the air and flexed her muscles as she let out a roar.

“I didn’t even know what was going on. [The ball] was just going in so I kept shooting,” Hiedeman said.

She finished the game with a career-high 24 points on 8-of-11 shooting, helping the Sun topple the Atlanta Dream 82-71.

In comparison to last season, Hiedeman’s numbers had taken a noticeable decline. In 2022, she averaged 9.1 points (43.1% FG) and 3.3 assists per game. This year, she’s averaging 8.4 points on 38.3% shooting and 2.8 assists per game. This dip in production could be attributed to an ongoing rib injury she suffered earlier in the season.

Nevertheless, Hiedeman looked to be in full form on Thursday.

“I’m just really happy for her. She deserves a game like this,” fellow Sun guard Rebecca Allen said.

Ending Atlanta’s Dream

Coming in on a seven-game winning streak, Atlanta arrived in Uncasville blazing hot. Meanwhile, the Sun were coming off their worst performance of the season— a 72-66 loss to the Phoenix Mercury in which the team was an icy-cold 36.1% from the floor.

The loss to Phoenix exposed the flaws of a Brionna Jones-less Sun squad. However, the team was able to regroup and shift sights to their next foe, the Atlanta Dream. Hiedeman was the game’s heroine, but snapping the Dream’s winning streak was a team effort.

Alyssa Thomas finished with a near triple-double, putting up 12 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. Rebecca Allen contributed 13 points and a season-high six blocks while DeWanna Bonner added 13 points, six rebounds and six assists.

“Just really pleased with our team’s ability to bounce back. You know, it was a championship effort today, collectively everybody stepped up,” head coach Stephanie White said.

Atlanta was led by 2022 Rookie of the Year Rhyne Howard who finished with 22 points. Her efforts, although valiant, weren’t enough to carry the Dream over the finish line. Connecticut’s win puts them at 16-6 on the season, which is good for third in the WNBA standings.

Breaking Records

2023 has been a year of breaking records and reaching milestones for the Sun. In Thursday’s victory over the Dream, Bonner notched her 6,57th career point, moving her up to eighth on the WNBA’s all-time scoring list, surpassing Candace Parker. In the same game, Alyssa Thomas became the fastest player in WNBA history (261 games) to achieve 3000 points, 1500 rebounds, 1000 assists and 400 steals. She’s just the 10th player all-time to achieve such a feat, according to Across the Timeline.

“I think we’re gonna see both [Bonner] and [Thomas] just keep rising in whatever it is. Whether it’s assists, whether it’s points, whether it’s games, you know. They’ve been awesome for this organization and it’s also sort of like [they’re] the heart and soul of this team” Allen said.

Honoring Brionna Jones

Both the players and coaching staff wore t-shirts that read “42 tough” in honor of Brionna Jones on Thursday. Jones, who tore her Achilles on June 20, was back on the sidelines for the first time since her injury. She was all smiles on the bench, despite her circumstances.

“We want her out there with us, there’s no doubt about it. But, now we can play in a way that honors her and lifts our team up,” White said.

The Sun’s next game will be a rematch against the Dream on Saturday at 1 p.m. EST.

About Ethan Arcata

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