Playing for nothing but pride, the Connecticut Sun ended their 2013 season on a positive note with an 82-80 overtime victory over the Indiana Fever before 8,478 fans at the Mohegan Sun Arena on Sunday. Izzy Castro Marques banged in two free throws with 1.9 seconds left in overtime to give the Sun their third victory in their last five games.
Castro Marques led the Sun with 19 points, matching her season high, and eight rebounds. Mistie Bass recorded her first double-double of the season with 16 points and 12 boards, while Renee Montgomery added 16 points and had eight assists. Kalana Greene and Kelsey Griffin also broke double digits for the Sun, with 13 and 10 points, respectively.
Karima Christmas led all scorers with 21 points for the Fever (a career high), followed by former Sun star Katie Douglas with 14. Erlana Larkins (12), Jeanette Pohlen (12), and Layshia Clarendon (10) also scored in double digits for Indiana.
Both teams were severely depleted. The Sun were playing without Tina Charles, Allison Hightower, Kara Lawson, Tan White and Kelly Faris, while the Fever, who entered the game already qualifying for the postseason, opted to rest stars Tamika Catchings, Shavonte Zellous and Briann January. In addition, Jess Davenport (stress fracture of the left fibula) and Jess Breland did not dress.
Connecticut led 34-32 at intermission, and the score was tied 48-48 after three periods. Douglas hit two from the charity stripe with 21.3 seconds remaining in regulation to give the Fever a 71-69 advantage. But Griffin popped in a jumper at the buzzer, sending the game into overtime.
The game stayed within two points throughout the extra session until Castro Marques banged home a three, putting the Sun up 80-77 with 1:25 remaining. Douglass responded with a trey of her own to knot things back up at 80-80 with 41.9 seconds left on the clock. The Sun missed three shots on their next possession, but when Castro Marques pulled down a rebound of her own missed shot, she was fouled by Douglas. The Brazilian star calmly knocked down two from the stripe with 1.9 seconds left.
Larkins missed a jumper at the buzzer, and the Sun came away victorious.
All five Connecticut starters finished in double-figures, the first time that's happened in a year (Sept. 12, 2012 at Phoenix). Montgomery tied a season high with four three-point field goals, while her eight assists were also a season-best.
“Give Connecticut credit,” said Douglas, a fan favorite during her tk years in a Sun uni. “They could have laid down, but it was a great test for us no matter who we have in the playoffs. [Sunday] was a playoff-like atmosphere without the implications of the playoffs. It was a great test for some of our other players that don’t get a lot of reps and don’t get that kind of experience and hopefully we can use this game as a huge, huge experience. You never know what is going to happen in the playoffs.”
For the Sun, who came in first in the Eastern Conference regular season last year and entered into the season with championship expectations, this offseason will be a tough one to ponder. The team not only missed the postseason for the first time since 2010, but experienced the worst season in franchise history.
“My expectations were pretty high that the transition would be, not seamless, but go a lot smoother than it did,” said Sun head coach Anne Donovan, who replaced long-time fixture Mike Thibault on the Sun bench. “The nature of the WNBA is that there are injuries at every turn. As it went for us, once we lost Renee and Tan in addition to Kara, that’s when it started getting ridiculous. When it keeps coming, you wonder why your karma is so bad.”