Sun Have To Do Better

Performances Like Griffin's Sure Will Help

Kelsey Griffin

Kelsey Griffin, pictured in a game in May, put her body on the line for the Sun this season, spending a lot of postgame time with ice packs. (Stan Godlewski / Special to The Courant / May 5, 2014)

UNCASVILLE — Maybe this is what it takes. Maybe it takes Chiney Ogwumike, the team's future, to get caught in the health issues of the present and have to watch the vital minutes from the bench.

Maybe it takes Katie Douglas, the team's veteran rudder, to hobble off late with her lower back problems for a young team to have enough backbone to pull out a late-season double-overtime victory after blowing a 13-point, fourth quarter lead.

Or maybe the story of this Sunday was in the four ice packs covering Kelsey Griffin's body after the Sun had staved off elimination from the playoff race, albeit for only two hours.

"MVP of the game," Sun coach Anne Donovan said of Griffin following an 89-81 win over the Mystics.


[Get Your Newspaper Delivered To Your Inbox Every Day with eCourant]

A put-back at the buzzer to push the game into overtime, a dagger three in double overtime, stops, deflections, charges taken, a huge steal on Bria Hartley ... yes, Griffin earned the ice pack on her elbow, one on each knee and another on her ankle. She could have been forgiven if somebody had mistaken her for Frosty The Snowman.

"Kelsey sacrifices her body every day," Renee Montgomery said.

"She deserves every bit of happiness from this game," Ogwumike said.

A personal record for most postgame bags of ice?

"Unfortunately not," Griffin said. "But I love my teammates. It's easy to put my body on the line when I got such great people to play with."

Within two hours, however, the Sun, were on ice. Indiana already had won. Chicago won. It was official. The Sun were frozen out of the playoffs. Again. And it's getting old. There is no maybe about that.

It would have been so neat and tidy if the Mystics had completed their fourth-quarter comeback and Griffin hadn't put back Kelsey Bone's miss.

The Sun would have been eliminated on the spot. Coach Mike Thibault, fired after the 2012 season in a move that could haunt Sun management for as long as slot machines whir in the casino, would have overseen the Sun demise. But, no, 7,348 fans showed, were vocal in their support, and the Sun got enough help off the bench to make sure the demise wasn't tidy.

"I guess it showed character; we blew a lead and still hung on for dear life," Montgomery said.

You know what? The tidy way would make for tidy conclusions, and rebuilding a team is never tidy. Saying last year's locker room abscess ended with a Chiney abscessed tooth this year is the snarky, simple explanation. The locker room chemistry stunk last year. Tina Charles, who eventually demanded a trade, missed Thibault so much, disliked playing for Donovan enough, that she treated Uncasville like a stink bomb.

This team did want to play. This team also isn't nearly good enough to run with the WNBA elite, not yet anyway. The good news is the WNBA elite is comprised of only two or three teams, and the rest are clearly within reach next season.

"The fans definitely have our back," Ogwumike said. "When something goes wrong, you can hear this place reverberate. They know something great is going to come. From this season, something special is going to happen in the years to come."

Maybe if the Sun keep missing the playoffs, they'll accumulate enough top draft picks and so much talent that they can't help but be good. Is that what is takes? It worked for Minnesota.

In 2015, Allison Hightower comes back healthy, Chelsea Gray comes in healthy, the terrific Alba Torrens shows up from abroad, Alyssa Thomas, Alex Bentley, Kelsey Bone and Chiney keep maturing … and who knows how the four-team draft lottery shakes out?

They could get Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis at No. 1. The Sun are dying for a shooters and she's one of the best. With the Liberty's pick from the Charles deal, they also could get another lottery choice. Duke's Elizabeth Williams is out there. Unfortunately, the 2015 draft also isn't a deep draft like 2014. A king's ransom for Breanna Stewart in 2016, right?

We all could shout, hey, this 12-20 lesson in frustration is the result of the massive overhaul after everybody but the Mohegan Sun Arena janitor quit on Donovan last year. We could say, just wait until next year.

Or we could say Donovan, 21-44 since taking over from Thibault, is overrated as a coach, failed to reach last year's team and failed to get this team to play effectively when it mattered most late in games. Last year's team imploded. This year's team was too green. Donovan figures to get one more chance next year. If the talk of growth and cohesion doesn't lead to a solid playoff team, she doesn't figure to be around the casino to see the Breanna Stewart draft.

"To be able to build a team not about huge scorers, but to have a chemistry team that goes out and plays hard, I'm really excited about the possibilities for this group." Griffin said.

Donovan was hired to win a championship in 2013, something a terrific coach named Thibault could not do over a decade — and he paid for it after a 25-9 season.

"Playing hard is not our issue [this season]," Donovan said.

Executing down the stretch was the huge issue.

"If you look at our record, the amount of games we've lost in the fourth quarter that we shouldn't lose is too many, too many than I'd like to count," Griffin said. "We know we're capable of closing games. It comes down to gritting it out."

The Sun have shot horribly this season, a huge issue, too. A .412 field goal percentage is a ticket to the basement.

"We've struggled from the three-point line, my God," Donovan said. "Down the stretch, [Montgomery] knocked them down today. And she was playing schematically what we wanted to do with that middle-ball screen, which was Bentley's demise.

"You have to get shooters, that's why we got Katie. It's something we struggled with a lot last season, too. [Thomas] has a lot of growth. In the offseason it's something she has to work on. But once you get two-three years in the league, you are who you are. There isn't enough time for women's basketball players to work on their game anymore. They go overseas. The period of time is small. That's why we're hoping we can capitalize with A.T."

After her prime rookie missed two games with the harsh fallout of an abscess tooth, Donovan said Ogwumike, who had nine points in 26 minutes Sunday, still wasn't herself. She was out of it. The rest of the kids hung in there. Maybe it's a sign of things to come. Maybe.

"Once again it was our youth going against experienced teams playing for positions in the playoffs," Donovan said. "I like the way we responded.

"Everybody talks about Indiana basketball, where our game began, but there's nothing like Connecticut in terms of fans for us. They haven't given up on us."

Not yet anyway.

hc-jacobs-column-0811-20140810
To comment on courant.com articles, you must register as a digital member and be logged in to enter your comment below. To report spam or abuse, hover over the comment and select the Flag option in the right corner. For guidelines on commenting, please read our Terms of Service
Connect with the Hartford Courant to get articles like this and more.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

CONNECT WITH US

News Coverage on Vatican City - CTNow
RSS feeds allow Web site content to be gathered via feed reader software. Click the subscribe link to obtain the feed URL for this page. The feed will update when new content appears on this page.

Vatican City

A collection of news and information related to Vatican City published by this site and its partners.

Top Vatican City Articles

Displaying items 56-66
  • A Whirlwind Week In Rome For The Newly-Minted Timothy Cardinal Dolan

    A Whirlwind Week In Rome For The Newly-Minted Timothy Cardinal Dolan
    Continuing a weekend of celebration -- after his elevation to cardinal in St. Peter's Basilica -- Timothy Dolan of New York said Sunday he thought the Italian press was hyping stories about other cardinals in Vatican City jockeying for power, as Pope...
  • An evening of voice and piano, featuring a Bel Air native

    Soprano Stacey Mastrian returns to her native Bel Air to present a recital of songs and arias in Italian, French, German, Spanish and English, with pianist Scott Crowne. The concert will be Friday, March 16, at 8 p.m. at the St. Mary Magdalen Mission...
  • 'Lady With All the Answers' captures spirit of advice icon Ann Landers

    Ann Landers read her readers' letters in the bathtub, banged out her columns on a typewriter, wrote right here in Chicago for anyone and everyone, and batted away any back-office meddlers with the roar of a lioness of the printed word. The late Tribune...
  • 'The Lady With All the Answers'

    'The Lady With All the Answers'
    "The Lady With All the Answers" -- the solo show about advice columnist Ann Landers, which opened Friday at Pasadena Playhouse -- tries to make a virtue out of innocuousness. A breezy encounter with the Midwestern bouffant of syndicated fame, the piece...
  • Tours and cruises in Santa Cruz, Africa, China and Europe

    VENTURA Shop along the coastEnjoy the Ventura coastline and discounted room rates while whittling down your holiday shopping list with the Crowne Plaza's "Shop and Stay" package. Dates: Through Jan. 31. Price: From $169 per night, double occupancy,...
  • Obama Has First Meeting with Pope

    Obama Has First Meeting with Pope
    VATICAN CITY -- President Barack Obama met with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican Friday for frank but constructive talks between two men who agree on helping the poor but disagree on abortion and stem cell research. "It's a great honor," Obama said as he...
  • Doug Luzader

    Doug Luzader
    Doug Luzader joined FOX News in 2002 as a freelance reporter traveling abroad to cover breaking news stories.  He is currently the Washington, D.C.-based correspondent for the 35 FOX owned-and-operated television stations.    Most recently, he reported...
  • Planning your trip to Vatican City

    THE BEST WAY TO VATICAN CITY From LAX, Alitalia offers nonstop service to Rome. Delta, Lufthansa, Air France, British Airways and US Air offer connecting service (change of planes). Restricted round-trip fares begin at $836. CURRENCY Euro TELEPHONES...
  • China moves to clean up Mt. Everest

    1 China Scattered with the debris of more than 50 years of climbing -- oxygen canisters, tents and backpacks -- Mt. Everest has been called the world's highest garbage dump. China is moving to clean up its northern side of the mountain and protect its...
  • Obama meeting Pope, Vatican says

     
    by Mark Silva President Barack Obama, who will leave town on the July Fourth weekend for a summit of the Group of Eight in Italy and a quick trip to Ghana, will drop in on Pope Benedict XVI, Reuters is......
  • Apocalypse now: 'Collapse' and the end of the world as we know it

     
    America has a bad case of the doomsday jitters. You don't have to be a Glenn Beck follower to know that whenever things go wrong in this country, you can always find all the anger, bitterness and fear-mongering bubbling up......