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Stricklen's clutch game-winner leads Sun over Storm

The struggling Connecticut Sun got a huge boost from Shekinna Stricklen. Stricklen nailed the game-winning shot on a put-back layup with 8.2 seconds left, as the Sun beat the Storm.

Photo by Chris Poss

The Connecticut Sun defeated the Seattle Storm in dramatic fashion by a final of 67-66 on Friday at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

The matchup, which featured a Seattle team that had lost all but one road game going up against a Sun team that had lost its last four home games, proved to be an exciting, back and forth affair. Over the course of the game, there would be 15 ties and 12 lead changes with neither side backing down when the other went on a run.

The teams emerged from halftime with Seattle leading 40-38. It was then that the Storm looked like they might run away with the contest, as they went on a 7-0 run to start the second half, and held the Sun without a field goal until the 5:34 mark of the period.

"I was surprised that we came out after halftime and did not get after it immediately." Said Sun head coach Anne Donovan. "If you had been in (our locker room) at halftime, you would have been surprised Seattle came out on a 7-0 run because halftime was quite pointed."

The Sun answered with a run of their own over the second half of the third quarter, as they would outscore the Storm 17-4 over the final six minutes of the period, to take a 54-51 lead into the final stanza.

The quarter, like the entire game, was back and forth with neither team willing to give the other any breathing room.

With only 2:13 seconds to play, Sue Bird hit one of her signature pull-up jumpers to give Seattle a six-point cushion, but it would be the final points the Storm would score in the game.

On the next possession, Alyssa Thomas hit a layup to bring the Sun to within four at 66-62. Crystal Langhorne then committed a turnover giving the ball back to Connecticut. Kelsey Bone missed her shot attempt at the rim, but Sue Bird committed another turnover for Seattle as Thomas stole the ball.

After Jewell Loyd committed a foul to stop play, the Sun called timeout to draw up a play for former Storm player Shekinna Stricklen. The play was run to perfection as Stricklen curled off a screen and hit a fadeaway three, her fourth of the game, to pull the Sun to within one.

Seattle would miss their shot attempt on their ensuing possession allowing Camille Little, the other former Storm player traded to the Sun in the offseason, to secure the rebound and call timeout.

The Sun drew up their final play, giving Little a clean look from 17 feet. Her shot would miss only to fall into the hands of none other than Stricklen, who crashed the boards for a put-back layup with just 8.2 seconds remaining.

"When a shot goes up, you have to crash the boards," said Stricklen. "I had Loyd on me and I'm bigger than her. I was able to hold her off and get the rebound, so it was a good put back."

Seattle would draw up a final play for Abby Bishop, but her shot missed and the Sun, led by the performance of Stricklen, secured their first home win in the last five tries.

"It's very frustrating," said Sue Bird when asked about surrendering a six-point lead late in the game, "especially on the road when you have a chance to win a game, and you are kind of in control. (We) need to take advantage of it and we just didn't make enough plays at the end and they did."

The Sun had three players reach double figures led by Stricklen and her game-high tying 15 points to go along with four rebounds. Kelsey Bone finished with 12 points and four rebounds, and Elizabeth Williams set new career highs with 10 points and five rebounds in only 16 minutes.

Seattle was led by Bird, who finished with 15 points and five assists while Loyd added 13 points and four rebounds. Crystal Langhorne contributed 10 points and six boards, and Ramu Tokashiki finished with nine points and a game and career-high seven rebounds in the losing effort.