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Sun rising: young core orbiting upward

The Connecticut Sun clipped the Dallas Wings Friday night in front of their home fans in what was their last home game of the season. The Sun know they have a lot of things they can build on, as they look to make the playoffs in 2017 for the first time since 2012.

Connecticut Sun Chris Poss - Swish Appeal

Uncasville, CT — As the sun sets on the 2016 campaign, the Connecticut Sun find themselves, unfortunately, in a familiar place. For the fourth-straight season, the Sun are one of four teams in the WNBA that are on the outside of the playoffs looking in.

Despite entering Friday night’s home finale against the Dallas Wings with nothing this season to play for, the Sun once again looked like a team on the rise as they blew out Dallas, 107-74.

It was a team effort, as seven players scored in double-figures for Connecticut, and all ten players who checked in contributed in the scoring column. The Sun shot a scorching 63.2 percent from the floor, and showed signs of just maybe what is to come.

“There's a vibe and a camaraderie that they are truly happy for each other,” Sun coach Curt Miller said. “We now have an atmosphere of cohesion. There’s days where they gripe at each other like any group of sisters would, but there’s a vibe, a chemistry and a continuity that we worked really hard since we got here to try to build.”

A team with nine players age 25 or younger; Connecticut has the makings of a young team on the rise. Even though they lack the one true superstar they continue to search for, playing together and for each other proved to lead to good results over the second half of the 2016 season.

“I truly believe this team cares on and off the court for each other, and it shows with the passion that they play with for each other,” Miller said.

The Sun finished this season with two of their three first-round picks from last year’s draft in street clothes, so adding Morgan Tuck and Rachel Banham back into the mix in 2017 will be an excellent spark.

Courtney Williams, whom Connecticut traded for halfway through this season, has fit in well, and was a significant contributor Friday night, scoring 15 points and grabbing seven rebounds.

“I think that we’re just trying to take that momentum into the next year,” Williams said. “We are just trying to end on a good note.”

With one game left in Washington on Sunday, the Sun also have seen growth in Jasmine Thomas, the rugged defender who has improved on the other end of the floor.

“My entire time playing basketball the mid-range game has been something I'm good at,” Thomas said. “I've gotten myself in trouble where I'm either always trying to get to the rim or settling for the catch and shoot the three.

“So overseas this past offseason, I worked on that a lot. It feels good, it’s a comfortable shot for me, and it helps us when I can hit that.”

Since their 2-10 start, Connecticut has won 11 of their last 21 games, including two against the defending champion Minnesota Lynx. It is games like those two that this young team will look to build on as they head into next season.

“Everyone will go their separate ways, either overseas or getting healthy,” Thomas said. “I think everyone will do what they need to do to come back strong, healthy and in shape for next season. Then we just build on what we ended with this season. The start was slow, but this second half we've been great.”