Las Vegas wins its first WNBA championship: “It was a battle”
Video courtesy of the Las Vegas Aces
Led by dynamic point guard Chelsea Gray, the Las Vegas Aces took game four of the WNBA Finals over the Connecticut Sun, 78-71, for the first-ever league championship for the franchise. The title was won on Connecticut’s floor and is the first for a pro team in Las Vegas.
“It was a battle,” said first-year head coach Becky Hammon. “We knew it wasn’t going to be easy. It’s never easy to close a game in a regular season, let alone in a championship game on somebody else’s home court.”
The Aces came into the contest leading the series 2-1 and overcame a run by the Sun in the latter part of the fourth quarter. The game was tied twice in the last three minutes but three key shots from Aces reserve Riquna Williams helped propel the Aces to the victory with an 8-0 run.
Gray, named the Finals MVP, finished with 20 points, five rebounds, and six assists. During the Finals, she averaged 18.3 points and 6.0 assists per game.
Williams added 17 points. Kelsey Plum scored 15 points and Jackie Young added 13 points plus five rebounds and six assists. The season’s MVP A’ja Wilson had a double-double of 11 points and 14 rebounds.
The Sun made a valiant effort to overcome the Aces, but the defense and the sharpshooting down the stretch by the Aces was too much for Connecticut. Courtney Williams was among the five Sun players in double figures with 17 points plus six rebounds. Last season’s MVP, Jonquel Jones had 13 points plus eight rebounds for the Sun. DeWanna Bonner put up 12 points and pulled down eight rebounds. Alyssa Thomas, who became the first player to earn a triple-double in the Finals during game three on Thursday, followed up with another of 11 points, 10 rebounds, and 11 assists. Brionna Jones contributed 11 points.
Sun head coach Curt Miller voiced pride in his team even though the outcome was not what he wanted.
“Incredibly proud of our team and our resilience and our fight. It was a grind out there, both teams playing so hard, both teams playing so well in stretches defensively, and just incredibly proud of our effort. And we put ourselves in a position to win, and it became a chess match down the stretch with our big lineup versus their small lineup, and they finished on an 8-0 run to end the game.”
The Sun had a tall task against the star-studded Aces, who not only have the regular season MVP and the Finals MVP, but also the Coach of the Year. While Hammon indicated appreciation for the sheer talent of her team, she also expressed her gratitude for the off-the-court personas as well.
“They are really good basketball players, but they are also really fun people. I’ve had an absolute blast this summer, not only being on the court with them and being their basketball coach but also just being there for them. You know, because they have all kind of been on their own little journeys, and yet we land here on the same road with the same destination. It’s just been a pleasure for me to coach them, and I look forward to building on it.”
Las Vegas mayor Carolyn G. Goodman congratulated the Aces via Twitter after the game:
“What a team, what talent, what a victory! You have made Las Vegas so proud! Thank you for your effort, discipline & focus. We can’t wait for the celebrations and a great parade!”
Former president Barack Obama also congratulated the team:
Congratulations to the @LVAces on their first WNBA title! It’s been fun to watch Coach @BeckyHammon and this team play this season. https://t.co/q4Ga5bm73H— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) September 18, 2022
The Aces will celebrate their title on Tuesday, Sept. 20, at 5:30 p.m. PT on the Strip. The rally route begins at Caesars Palace, down Las Vegas Blvd. S and ends at a stage in front of the Bellagio fountains.