Uncasville, Conn.—The Dallas Wings weren’t ready to end their season quite yet and Kayla Thornton made sure of it.
Thornton poured in 20 points and Teaira McCowan chipped in 17 and 11 boards to help the Wings beat the Connecticut Sun 89-79 on Sunday in Game 2 of the best-of-three series to starve off elimination.
It was the first playoff win for the Wings since 2009, when they were the Detroit Shock. They became the second team in playoff history to lose by at least 25 points in Game 1 and then win the next game by double-digits.
“I knew I had to go in and do what I do best, which is rebound, be a dominant force inside, and that’s what I did tonight for my teammates” said McCowan.
The Wings shot 48% (36 of 75) from the field, made 11 of 26 (42.3%) from 3-point range and finished with 28 assists.
The Wings led by 15 points through one quarter against the Sun, a franchise that has come close to titles in previous seasons but is still without a championship trophy. Dallas were down 46-30 at the half even though the Sun shot 50%. But Dallas came out on fire in the third quarter and led by 29 going into the fourth quarter.
“I think we have to learn how to capitalize,” McCowan said. “With us being a young team, you know, sometimes we get a little sloppy — as you could see at the end. But, I mean, once we tighten that up, it’ll be good for the next game.”
A 12-0 run put Dallas up, 62-37 early in the third, and proved crucial when Connecticut mounted their late comeback.
Connecticut trailed by as many as 31 points at the start of the fourth quarter, but made the contest close with a 22-2 run over 6:11 of game time. Dallas head coach Vickie Johnson took a timeout at 1:46 left in the game, her team holding unto 86-73 lead. McCowan put back an offensive rebound and rookie Veronica Burton answered a Connecticut layup with a three to go up 14 points at 1:09 and cruised the rest of the way.
Alisha Gray scored 15 with eight assists, five boards and three of the team’s eight steals. Mabrey had 14 and McCowan had 17 in 23 minutes off the bench. They were 48% from the field, 11-of-26 (42.3%) from 3 and 6-of-9 from the line. In Game 1, they went 5-of-20 from downtown and a rough 11-of-19 at the free-throw line.
Dallas are still without their leading scorer in Arike Ogunbowale, who could return for the semifinals. Thornton paced the Wings and broke her previous career-high of three 3-pointers in a single game. She was 8-of-12 overall and 4-of-6 from beyond the arc along with five rebounds and four assists.
Jonquel Jones scored 20 points and nine rebounds for third-seeded Connecticut, and Brionna Jones also scored 20. DiJonai Carrington chipped 13 points.
“We have to put our talent to work. I mean, we know what we can do. We have great players on our team so if everyone plays their role, plays team offense and defense, we’ll be fine. said McCowan.
The No. 6 seed will also get the second by default and go home for a winner-take-all Game 3 under the new WNBA playoff format approved last offseason. That game will be played Wednesday (9 p.m. ET on ESPN) with a trip to the semifinals on the line.