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Charles, Jones, Lead Sun in Season Finale

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Just the Facts, Ma'am: Tina Charles's 23rd double-double gave the Connecticut Sun homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs, as the Sun pulled out a 69-63 win over the New York Liberty. Charles's 18 points and 11 rebounds were game highs, the latter tied with Asjha Jones. Nicole Powell led New York with 14 points.

For epic road trips, sore vocal chords, flames on the side of my face, presence of mind, shiny objects, and how Kara Braxton got her groove back, join your intrepid and traffic-bound blogger and 50 of her closest friends after the jump.

 

Good evening, everyone ,and welcome to beautiful not-Uncasville, Connecticut! Our first trip to Foxwoods is going swimmingly. We're ensconced in the MGM Grand, with a phenomenal view of... well, woods. We haven't seen any foxes yet, though.

The bus ride up was fun. I wish we could have gotten something other than the Tulsa game, though. I'd have liked a more interesting game, or at least not one from this season. I see what people mean about Petrolino and Hampton as announcers. Petrolino sounds like a promoted sideline reporter. Hampton sounds like she's chilling on the couch with a couple of friends, passing around the popcorn and flipping at commercials. The hot mic moments were good, and Kym was rather hilarious at the end. "Dang. My trains are 6:08, 6:15, and 6:54." Story of all our lives, Kym.

A lot of the Usual Suspects made the trip, and our numbers will swell in the morning. We met up with some reinforcements who drove up and got discounted rates at the hotel.

I'm intrigued by the casinos of Foxwoods, and I don't think they're exaggerating the looseness of the slots.  Some of those 99-line/33-credit ones... but this is a family show. The dining variety isn't great- you either get top-shelf restaurants that cost $40 a plate, or you get glorified fast food. We found one of the few medium-level restaurants, Golden Dragon, which does good Chinese.

The brunch was great. The home fries were delicious, and I loved the white chocolate "stirrers" in the fruit salad "martinis". We got a lot of speeches (with that many Taras, I was starting to miss Tari) and some classic footage: Ashley Battle's "U Can't Touch This", Sue Wicks's cameo in Maddie Gaga, Kym Hampton and Teresa Weatherspoon's guest spot on "The Cosby Show", and the legend that is Liberty Thriller. (I still say Shameka should have gotten a Best Supporting Actress nod as the ingenue.)

Our bus had the good fortune of having Sue Wicks and Ashley Battle on it. Sue's quiet, but occasionally snarky. Ashley is working the room. More on the way back to New York than on the way up.

Your intrepid blogger and her equally intrepid husband were almost tourist attractions. If you took a picture of the couple dressed out in throwbacks and leis, shoot me a line. There are few enough pictures of us that we like to show them off.

I got as close to an NCAA championship ring as I'll ever get when Ashley had hers on display. Shiiiiiiiny. (St. John's, if you're reading this: THAT IS A CHALLENGE. BRING IT. I want shiny!)

We were not amused at the Sun's front office allocating us tickets in the upper deck. And though they mostly kept us together, there were Sun fans scattered through our sections, who probably wished for death for someone. Security was a hassle, but that was to be expected and it meant that we could skip most of the 9/11 memorial.

Many thanks to Amanda at the Sun box office and Amir (whose name I have probably butchered) from security for helping me get my camera back when I realized after leaving the arena that I had left it there. I called out enough Sun employees after l'affaire d'laptop that I feel like I should give credit where credit is due.

For the record: I would like to apologize for the people who booed the senior dance team. That's much of a muchness. We kept it rocking, but we tried to keep it within the bounds of the game.

Kara Braxton earned her Liberty stripes today. She was the one who noticed us up in the upper deck, she was the one who waved most ferociously, and she was the one who led us in the opening chant that Maddie usually leads from the Liberty logo at home. She didn't have a Liberty logo to jump on for the letters, but we knew what she was doing and chanted as loud and as hard as we could. I'd say there were a few hundred of us in the building, and over a hundred in our bus troop. (And if you thought I was hard on Cappie, you should hear some of the people in front of me. I'd say a fair number of people hate her guts.)

I was surprised that Alex Montgomery didn't see any time. It's not like our perimeter defense was any great shakes; perhaps someone who doesn't leave the corner wide open would have been a good move. Essence Carson started off red hot, then disappeared. I don't know if she was trying to use her energy on defense or if she got defensively frustrated, but she was done. Quanitra Hollingsworth put forth a lot of effort on the boards and on defense, but she was overmatched. Off the bench, really, it was Kara Braxton who showed out. I think she fed off our energy, because she came ready to play, and why Whiz stuck with his strict rotation in the fourth quarter is something I'll never understand. He's so dogmatic that there are times I think he should work at the Vatican. I mean, she committed her usual stupid mistakes as well, but Whiz, if Kara bleeping Braxton is 5-5 from the field, you press your luck and put her in the damn game, it's not complicated.

The words I have used elsewhere to describe Cappie Pondexter's performance, and my opinion thereof, are not suitable for this forum. I will say that she pursued loose balls well, but that was it. She couldn't hit water falling out of a boat (and there are a few people on this bus who wouldn't mind testing that theory in the real world), she was awful form the line, and her defense was deplorable. We pay her to win games. It's her job. She's the superstar. She lost us this one. You want the mantle, Cappie? Here it is. Feels awfully leaden, doesn't it?

I thought were going to blow a hole in the roof when Leilani Mitchell hit that three to end the first half. She showed out in the first. I don't think the size mismatch helped us there at all. Nicole Powell's back was acting up- we saw her with the radiator at one point, looking utterly miserable. But she was playing great on-ball defense- she had a lot of deflections, a lot of tapped balls. Hit a couple of timely shots, too. Plenette Pierson gets no respect from the refs. I understand that she has a reputation. I understand that she played for Detroit. I understand that she has a tendency to flop. But at some point you have to realize she's taking the contact and make the call. She was doing work on defense, though. Boom, boom, shake, shake the room on those blocks, Plenette! Kia Vaughn let the matchup with her old rival Charles get into her head, for good and for ill. Great work on the boards, and that one putback was ace.

Kelsey Griffin made a cameo, missed a shot, and played a nice little bit of defense. Allison Hightower played surprisingly extended minutes as a defensive presence, and she got her hand on the ball a lot. I wasn't impressed with Jessica Moore, but I've rarely been impressed with Jessica Moore. Kara Lawson seemed to be a little off her game today. I remember her being in, but I don't remember her doing anything. Tan White had a nice defensive game and some killer threes from the corners, because someone who will remain nameless can't guard a chair if she doesn't feel like it.

Tina Charles, I bow down to you. She beat the shot clock, she hit shots that had no business bouncing in, she was fierce, she was intense, she wanted it more than anything. Can't fight that, can't guard it, can't argue it, can't stop it. You go, Queens girl. You go. Asjha Jones had herself a very good game as well. She's quite flexible when she wants to be. We saw her busting her butt down in the paint. Danielle McCray hit a big three, but was otherwise mostly benched for White and Lawson. That's an interesting way to solve that dilemma, Mike. Kalana Greene had a stretch of dumb plays where we were heckling her ("you're playing great for us, Kalana!") and then she hit a three and ramped up the defense and we left her alone. Renee Montgomery- again, she was there, and she didn't play badly, but she didn't play memorably, except for one long three that everyone in the arena except her defender knew she was going to freakin' take. I suppose that's a good thing for a point guard sometimes.

I'm really not sure how these refs reckon jump balls sometimes. Insane and stupid come to mind as words to describe those calls. There were two odd shot clock violation issues that I thought were mis-called that I can't remember now- one was a shot clock violation even though it hit the rim, and one wasn't called when it seemed to have missed everything. Again, I really don't think consistency is too much to ask for when it comes to officiating. Call it both ways and have done with it!

Sue, I love you. I really do. You kept me loyal to Rutgers for many years. But you have lousy taste in movies. Adam Sandler? Really?

We rocked the place. I don't think the Sun fans got as involved as us until the last minute. We went wire to wire, and we represented. Our heads are high, even if our mouths are foul.

Go New York, go New York, go! Go New York, go New York, go! We need to bring it on Saturday, no matter who we're playing!