2:00 PM ET, September 10, 2005
Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, CT
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 5-year-old twins."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 extraordinary performance."Margo Dydek had four of her 12 points in overtime and Katie Douglas made five free throws in the final 40 seconds for Connecticut."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 again."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."
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