Story By: Erin Zollars
Photos By: Sol Tucker
They always say the teams that show true grit and heart right to the end usually come up winners, tonight that was exactly what the Washington Mystics did in a 89-78 victory over the Connecticut Sun to capture their first WNBA Title.
Point guard Kristi Toliver was asked what the Mystics were thinking early in the fourth quarter, when the game was still tight. Then, like always, she was picked up with a couple of huge buckets from Elena Delle Donne.
“All I said before the game was, ‘Regret nothing,’ ” Toliver said.
“And we didn’t regret anything,” Delle Donne finished.
For most of the game the Mystics had a solid offensive plan that seemed to work well at times, then there were times where it looked like the Sun were going to be able to pull one out late in the game. That’s when they got hit with another dose of Emma Meesseman, who dropped 22 points and took home the MVP trophy.
“I asked Emma is she was more nervous after last game or this one, she told me last game.. (well this one too) Meesseman replied to Mystics Head Coach Mike Thibault.
For Thibault, the ending was bittersweet. He has done so much as a coach, but never been able to dance as a winner. Tonight was that chance.
The winningest coach in league history won his first championship at the end of his 17th WNBA season and his fourth trip to the finals — two with the Mystics, two in the 2000s with the Sun.
For Delle Donne, the post-title celebration was a chance to reflect on her journey to the title. She demanded a trade to Washington from Chicago ahead of the 2017 offseason in part to be closer to her family in Delaware. Delle Donne is especially close with her older sister Lizzie, who was born with autism and cerebral palsy and communicates through touch and scent.
“I was talking to her all game long,” Delle Donne said, her voice shaking. “Trying to have them miss free throws and whatnot — ‘Come on, Liz, give me a little something.’ She doesn’t know it, she doesn’t even know I’m a basketball player. But she’s been my biggest motivator, and she’s brought me here.”
For the Sun, the efforts fell just a little short tonight a big part of their shortcomings came from Alyssa Thomas hitting the bench in foul trouble.
Thomas picked up her second foul with three minutes to go in the first quarter. Thomas had played all 40 minutes in every game of this series, but she headed to the bench early in what has become the closest first quarter between these teams. Morgan Tuck entered the game in Thomas’s place. Another Sun starter, forward Shekinna Stricklen, received her second foul late in the first quarter, forcing Connecticut to rely more on its bench than usual.
By the time the Mystics had a 6 point lead with just over 1:30 remaining, the Sun just could not get the same looks at the basket as they had in the third quarter. This spelled their demise and their trip starting over on next season starts tonight.