WNBA Scores

Wednesday, Sep 29th

Final

Mystics 56

(17-17, 6-11 away)

Sun 76

(18-16, 10-7 home)

    8:00 PM ET, September 29, 2004

    Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, CT

    1 2 3 4 T
    WSH 25 31 56
    CONN 41 35 76

    Top Performers

    Washington: A. Beard 22 Pts, 3 Reb, 2 Ast, 4 Stl, 4 Blk

    Connecticut: N. Sales 18 Pts, 3 Reb, 3 Ast, 2 Stl

    Sun in conf. finals for 2nd straight year

    UNCASVILLE, Conn. (AP) -- An infusion of young talent and a change of scenery has done wonders for the former Orlando Miracle.

    Reborn last year as the Connecticut Sun, the team landed in the WNBA Eastern Conference finals for the second straight season with a 76-56 victory over the Washington Mystics on Wednesday night.

    Lindsay Whalen
    Lindsay Whalen was the Sun's catalyst at the point versus the Mystics.

    The best-of-three series starts Friday night at New York.

    The former Miracle reached the postseason just once during their four years in Orlando and didn't advance beyond the first round.

    "This is exciting," said Sun coach Mike Thibault, who joined the team last year. "The team has found their extra reserves within themselves. This is a great win for this franchise."

    Led by the franchise's original members Nykesha Sales and Taj McWilliams-Franklin, the Sun found a way to stop the surging Mystics to advance. They also got plenty of help from rookie Lindsay Whalen in a 21-2 run in the first half of the deciding Game 3.

    "You always want to see the young players coming around at the right time," McWilliams-Franklin said. "Players like myself are more productive because we don't have to play as many minutes. We can spread ourselves around."

    McWilliams-Franklin made the most of her minutes Wednesday with 11 rebounds, two blocked shots and 10 points. Sales led the team with 18 points, including three 3-pointers during a key first-half run.

    "We realized this was a big game for us," Sales said. "We continue to get better all the time."

    Rookie Alana Beard scored 22 points and had four blocked shots for the Mystics, who had won six of their last eight games.

    Their run to the playoffs began improbably after star Chamique Holdsclaw left for undisclosed medical reasons and Beard emerged as the go-to player during that stretch.

    The former Duke All-America continued to sparkle in what would be her season finale, and at times, she seemed to be everywhere. In one of the few second-half highlights for Washington, Beard blocked Sales' jumper, scooped up the loose ball and cut through defenders downcourt before finishing with a driving layup.

    "If I came out of the game with a goose egg and we win, I would be happy with no points," a teary-eyed Beard said. "We had to win."

    Whalen, a first-round draft pick out of Minnesota, took over during a decisive 6-minute run in the first half that gave Connecticut all the cushion it would need. She finished with 17 points and six assists.

    The Mystics used a 6-0 run with 13:32 left in the first half to grab their only lead, 13-12. After both teams traded baskets over the next 5 minutes, Whalen went to work.

    She hit three straight driving layups, each more acrobatic than the last, drawing fouls on two to kick off the 21-2 run.

    "Things just opened up and the lane seemed to get wider and I just tried to push the tempo a little bit," Whalen said. "I was able to get in there and make some good things happen."

    If Whalen wasn't scoring in the lane, she was finding an open teammate. The spurt included two 3-pointers from Sales and one from Wendy Palmer-Daniel. Sales then hit her third 3 of the half as time expired in the half to give the Sun a 41-25 lead.

    "We couldn't stop them," Washington coach Michael Adams said. "They just kept coming at us."

    The Mystics got within eight points with under 7 minutes to play, but the Sun outscored them 20-8 down the stretch.

    Both teams were nearly even in the paint, but the Sun got 14 points from the reserves and 22 points off 14 Washington turnovers.

    "I'm proud of our players the way they fought all the way to the playoffs to be competitive at this point with all the stuff we had to deal with," Adams said.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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    Team Stat Comparison

      Washington Connecticut
    Points 56 76
    FG Made-Attempted 20-56 (.000) 28-66 (.000)
    3P Made-Attempted 2-8 (.250) 8-15 (.533)
    FT Made-Attempted 14-16 (.000) 12-14 (.000)
    Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 9-31 13-36
    Assists 11 19
    Turnovers 14 11
    Steals 6 7
    Blocks 6 3
    Fast Break Points 1 5
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 22 (0/0) 18 (0/0)