Washington, DC-- Little more was at stake on Sunday afternoon in Washington than pride. While both the Washington Mystics and the Connecticut Sun had already been eliminated from playoff contention, Sunday’s contest in Washington was still a game that fans of the sport could be proud of. Both teams played with a lot of heart and passion, even though the Sun came out on top, 87-78.
Connecticut was ready to play from the get-go, and they were led by a rookie with familiar ties to the Washington area. Jonquel Jones, a former NCAA Player of the Year candidate for George Washington University, came out for a career night in the city she called home throughout college.
Jones scored a season-high 21 to help push Connecticut past the Mystics. And while there was no playoff seeding at stake tonight, that didn’t matter to Jones or her team.
“This is our job. Just like any job you have to come in prepared no matter what the circumstances. I get paid to do this, and I love doing it so why not be ready when it’s time to play?,” she said following her career night.
And when it comes to her future in the league? Head coach Curt Miller sees no limit.
“Her long-term future is so bright. She has a chance to be a star in this league.
“She can score in a variety of ways, she affects the game at the defensive end around the rim, she’s a good rebounder. She’s got a complete game. Now she’s just got to get stronger,” Miller said.
“We’re really excited about her future and look forward to her going and getting better in her international play, and coming back even stronger in year two.”
Washington and Connecticut have been pretty evenly matched all season. Coming into today’s game they had the exact same record (13-20), both are younger squads, and both previous matchups went into overtime. In fact, on June 14th, the Mystics won in triple-overtime against the Sun. This was the first time a triple overtime game was played in the WNBA since 2014.
These two mirror image teams would continue their similar tendencies right until the very end of the 2016 regular season. With both teams being eliminated from the playoffs and nothing to lose, various personnel stepped up at key points for each team.
Five players on each team were in double figures. But over the last 12 games, Connecticut (as the youngest team in the league) really made a push for the playoffs, and they are looking forward to next season.
“We started off rough with our chemistry because we had a lot of new pieces. We had four rookies including me,” Jones said.
“So we just had a lot of things that we had to get better at and had to get used to each other, so I think after that was settled, we really started to play the type of basketball we were capable of playing. And I think that’s going to transfer over to next season for sure.”
Jones scored eight points in the first quarter and grabbed two offensive rebounds to give Connecticut a 23-17 lead. Washington’s rookie wouldn’t stand for that in the second quarter.
Kahleah Copper went off for 11 points, including two three-pointers, as the Mystics refused to go down without a fight. She also grabbed four defensive rebounds in a second quarter performance that would help narrow Connecticut’s lead to two at the half.
Washington came out in the third with something to prove, and Stefanie Dolson and Emma Meesseman continued their offensive grunt work in the paint throughout the quarter. Alyssa Thomas, an offensive leader for the Sun most of the night, added five quick points in under 30 seconds to make sure Washington could never run away with the game.
Jones would score five quick points for Connecticut, including a three-pointer, that would tie the game at 62 with two and a half minutes left. In the final thirty seconds, Jones would cap it off with another three-pointer to give her team a six-point lead (and her 21st point) as they headed into the last 10 minutes of 2016.
Washington would score five quick points to open the final quarter, but Connecticut would counter with 9. In the end, the Sun would hold off the Mystics to bring both teams’ seasons to a close.
And getting one final win in D.C.? It meant a lot to Jones as she closes out her rookie WNBA season.
“GW has a special place in my heart, it’s where I was for four years, and I have teammates and people that really care a lot about me, and I feel the same way about them too.
“It’s always special to come to D.C. and see all of them and have a big game.”