‘WE CHAMPS!’: Las Vegas Aces Win First WNBA Title

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UNCASVILLE, Conn. (TBEN) — Las Vegas has never had a professional sports champion until Sunday.

Chelsea Gray scored 20 points to lead the Las Vegas Aces to their first WNBA title and the city’s first professional title, in a 78-71 win over the Connecticut Sun in Game 4.

Gray went off the floor 9 out of 13 and was named Finals MVP after averaging 18.3 points in the series.

Vegas ended on an 8-0 run. When the buzzer sounded, MVP A’ja Wilson, who played every minute of the game, grabbed the ball and stomped on the ground before being mobbed by her teammates.

“We champions! We champions! We champions!” Wilson yelled at teammates as they donned their championship hats and T-shirts for the trophy ceremony.

Riquna Williams had 17 points for Vegas, Kelsey Plum added 16 points, Jackie Young had 13 and Wilson added 11 more points with 14 rebounds.

Wilson hopes this is just the beginning for the franchise.

“You see it. You see it,” Wilson said during the celebration on the pitch. “This is what we’re building. This is what we’re doing. This is it. I’m so happy right now. “

Chelsea Gray (12) of Las Vegas Aces went 9 out of 13 and was named Finals MVP after averaging 18.3 points in the series.

Jessica Hill via The Bharat Express News

Courtney Williams was 17 points ahead of Connecticut and Alyssa Thomas had her second triple-double in a row with 11 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds. Jonquel Jones added 13 points and DeWanna Bonner had 12.

For Aces coach Becky Hammon, who failed to win a title in her standout WNBA career, the ring completed a decades-long quest. She left an assistant coaching position with Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs to take over in Las Vegas. The move paid off.

“They’re incredible on the pitch, but they’re incredible people first and foremost,” Hammon said. “They care about each other. They invest in each other. It was an absolute honor to be their coach. I saw excellence and wanted to be a part of it.”

Hammon also paid tribute to former Aces coach Bill Laimbeer, who was on the ground for the ceremony: “He put this team together and saw the pieces.”

Aces owner Mark Davis, who also owns the NFL’s Las Vegas Raiders, was not with his soccer team on Sunday. He was in Connecticut to get a trophy. He hoisted it up and then gave it to merry players who did the same.

“Las Vegas, we are world champions,” Davis said.

The Aces led with two points at halftime and four points after three quarters. They had a six-point lead in the fourth when Plum was called up for a flagrant foul after running into Bonner while the sun guard attempted a three-pointer and sent her to the floor while holding her right ankle.

Bonner hit all three free throws before Jones’ short jumper cut the lead to a point. The Sun then tied the game at 67 on a free throw from Courtney Williams and took a 71-70 lead on two fouls by Brionna Jones.

Riquna Williams’ three-pointer put the Aces back on top and Gray’s step-back jumper extended the lead to 75-71 with less than a minute to go. A’ja Wilson then stole a pass and Plum hit a short jump shot to secure the win.

BAD GAME

As expected, it was a physical game – fittingly played on an NFL Sunday. The Sun was shocked when Bonner was unintentionally elbowed in the stomach by Gray late in the first quarter and lay on the floor for a few minutes before being helped to the bench. She came back into the game later in the half, apparently without ill effects. Natisha Hiedeman and Plum got into a short push match in the second quarter, with both players getting technical fouls. That was all for Plum’s blatant in the fourth.

NO GRAY AREA

Gray was not a WNBA All-Star this season, nor was she a first-team all-league pick, and had expressed her dismay about that. After scoring 21 points in each of the first two games of the Finals, she only scored 11 points in Game 3, but recovered. Far back.

“They can keep that All-Star and the first team,” Gray said. “I have the ring.”

INCLUSIVE ORGANIZATIONS

Before the game, both coaches reflected on the make-up of organizations in the Final. The Aces are led by Hammon and two black female executives in general manager Natalie Williams and Nikki Fargas, president of corporate operations. The Sun is owned by the Mohegan tribe, has a female president in Jen Rizzotti, and is coached by Curt Miller, a gay man.

Hammon said she believes the diversity in her team’s front office has made it stronger.

“You can get a much better picture with a box full of crayons than just a pencil,” she said.

VEGAS PRIDE AND PARADE

The start of the celebration was shown on the video screens of the Raiders’ stadium during the NFL game against Arizona on Sunday, with fans cheering loudly.

In a few days they can cheer more: a parade on the Las Vegas Strip is scheduled for Tuesday evening.

“What a team, what a talent, what a victory! You made Las Vegas so proud!” Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman said in a statement. “Thank you for your commitment, discipline and focus. We can’t wait for the celebrations and a great parade!”

Wilson said after the game that parade goers should be ready for a party: “If you come to the parade, you better be four shots in. If you don’t have four shots, don’t come.”

TIP-INS

The Aces improved to 4-0 in this year’s playoffs with two days of rest. …Vegas is the fourth WNBA team to win a title with both a league MVP and Coach of the Year…The Sun fell short after being on the final four WNBA teams for each of the final four seasons, making it back to the finals for the first time since 2019.

“Nobody expected us to be here,” Bonner said. “They expected us to lose to Chicago. They expected us to lose to Dallas. Despite all that, we made it to the final.” ____

This story has been corrected to show that the Aces General Manager’s first name is Natalie.