UNCASVILLE, Conn. (AP) -- Hobbled by a toe injury and with
nothing but pride left to play for, Tamika Catchings gave it her
She scored a season-high 30 points Sunday in the Indiana Fever's
80-60 loss to the Connecticut Sun. Connecticut clinched the Eastern
Conference regular-season title for the first time in its six-year
history but had to contend with Catchings to get there.
Now Catchings can finally catch her breath after a whirlwind
summer that included playing for the U.S. Olympic women's
basketball team that won the gold medal.
"I'll just sit back and reminisce I guess over what's been
going on since the beginning of this year to right now," she said.
"I've been on a roller coaster."
The Fever were already eliminated coming into the game, but
Catchings made sure they had plenty of fight left.
"I didn't want to go out like that. I have a lot of pride in
what I do and I love to play the game of basketball," Catchings
The Sun will open a best-of-three playoff series at Washington
on Saturday. Games 2 and 3 are scheduled for Monday and Wednesday
Asjha Jones led the Sun with a season-high 16 points and made
all eight of her free throws. She was part of a group of reserves
that accounted for 41 points for the Sun.
Tiny Debbie Black gave the Sun a big lift off the bench midway
through the first half. The pesky 5-foot-3 guard was tenacious on
defense and led a group of Sun reserves in a 8-0 run.
"I think the thing a lot of teams have overlooked is that she's
been shooting great since the break," Sun coach Mike Thibault
said. "She played calm on offense and she's been a pest on
The Sun led by as many as 13 when Nykesha Sales hit a wide-open
layup on a breakaway for a 29-16 lead.
But Indiana capitalized on a series of Sun turnovers and climbed
back into it with a 10-0 run. Deanna Jackson's jumper capped the
spurt and the Fever trailed by three with just 58 seconds remaining
in the half. The Sun closed out the period on a 6-2 run that
included four points from Katie Douglas and held a 35-28 lead at
Catchings opened the second with a 3-pointer and Kelly
Schumacher hit a jumper to pull the Fever to within three. They
would get no closer. Sales scored four straight points to kick off
a 7-0 run. Jones and reserve forward Le'Coe Willingham extended the
lead, combining for 10 of the next 13 Sun points.
Sales finished with 14 points and Douglas added 13. Sun guard
Lindsay Whalen had a career-high five steals.
Connecticut led by as many as 18 in the period, despite
Catchings' efforts. She scored nine points over a two-minute
stretch late in the game. But Jones hit six free throws down the
stretch to ice the win and the title for the Sun.
"Anytime you can get free points like that, it's great," Jones
The Sun are making their second straight appearance in the
playoffs. They made the postseason just once in four years as the
Orlando Miracle before trading the Florida sunshine for an Indian
casino in Connecticut.
"I think the things we did better than last year was we took
care of teams in our own conference," Thibault said. "Every time
we got to a game that could be a tiebreaker, that was a focal point
With the reserves in control for long stretches of the game,
Thibault and his starters had a courtside view of Catchings'
impressive season finale.
"She had nothing to play for," Thibault said. "But she showed
why she is one of the three or four best players in the league.
That was a class act out there."