UNCASVILLE, Conn. (AP) -- The Connecticut Sun are back in the
WNBA Finals for the second straight year but needed an extra five
minutes to get there.
The Sun got 15 points from Taj McWilliams-Franklin and a key
3-pointer from Nykesha Sales in overtime to sweep the Eastern
Conference finals with a 77-67 win over the Indiana Fever on
Saturday. It was the Sun's first overtime game of the season. They
play the winner of the Sacramento-Houston series.
"I think it was great that it went to overtime, it sort of
refreshed us," Sales said. "All of us felt like we got the ugly
things out of the way. But now we have a chance to finish things
out and make sure they don't happen again."
It was also the final game of Natalie Williams' 10-year
professional career. The sturdy Fever forward closed it out with
one of her best games of the season. It just wasn't enough to keep
Indiana alive in the playoffs.
Williams, the all-time leading rebounder in U.S. women's pro
basketball, had a season-high 17 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.
Her 43 minutes were also a season high.
"I know there was time when I was tired but for me this was
it," Williams said. "I gave it everything I had."
Her father Nate Williams, who played eight seasons in the NBA,
watched his daughter's final game from the stands. She announced
her retirement earlier this season to spend more time with her
"I'm going to miss my [Fever] family but we fought hard all
year," she said.
McWilliams-Franklin, who began playing against Williams in ABL
during the mid-1990s, embraced her midcourt amid the celebration
after the game.
"I just said 'I love you and I'll be joining you soon" said
McWilliams-Franklin, also a mother of two. "I get the same
feelings about being with my kids and wanting to be home. You just
get tired of running. There hasn't been one game I've played
against her where she hasn't played hard. But tonight was an
Margo Dydek had four of her 12 points in overtime and Katie
Douglas made five free throws in the final 40 seconds for
"I guess it was exciting for everybody watching except the two
coaches," Connecticut coach Mike Thibault said. "We made good
plays in overtime that we couldn't make in regulation. But we'll
take the win, it is a great feeling to be back in the finals
Tamika Catchings scored 21 points to help the Fever rally from
10 points down in the second half. Her 3-pointer with 18.6 seconds
left in regulation tied it at 60-all. The Sun had a chance to win
it in the closing seconds, but McWilliams-Franklin's jumper missed
the mark as time ran out.
Dydek opened the extra period with a jumper and Indiana
countered with Deanna Jackson' layup. McWilliams-Franklin scored
off an offensive rebound to give the Sun the lead for good at
64-62. Sales, who had struggled offensively most of the game, gave
the Sun even more breathing room with an open 3-pointer in
transition with 2:57 left.
She also made a key steal in the final minute that resulted in
Catchings' sixth and final foul.
Indiana coach Brian Winters called Sales' 3 a backbreaker.
"They made the plays they needed to make at the crucial times
and they deserved to win," Winters said.
The Sun iced the game from the line, making 8 of 12 free throws
in the last minute of overtime.
McWilliams-Franklin and Dydek had seven rebounds each. Lindsay
Whalen added 14 points for Connecticut.
Catchings did it all early on for the Fever. She had a pair of
defensive rebounds, two steals and a layup in the first three
minutes of what would be a closely contested first half. The lead
changed seven times in the period, but the Sun were able to build a
37-29 lead at the half, largely on the offense of reserve forward
Ajsha Jones. She had all 13 of her points in the first half,
including five in a 6-0 run to close out the period.
"It's disappointing to us," Catchings said. "We worked so
hard to get to this point and we worked so hard to get to this
level. We just wanted everyone to put everything on the court and
leave it there."