Inside the Connecticut Sun locker room after Game 5

Connecticut Sun guard Jasmine Thomas (5) Connecticut Sun guard Courtney Williams (10) Connecticut Sun guard Shekinna Stricklen (40) Connecticut Sun forward Alyssa Thomas (25) and Connecticut Sun center Jonquel Jones (35) during the WNBA game between the Phoenix Mercury and the Connecticut Sun at Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, Connecticut, USA on July 12, 2019. Photo Credit: Chris Poss
Connecticut Sun guard Jasmine Thomas (5) Connecticut Sun guard Courtney Williams (10) Connecticut Sun guard Shekinna Stricklen (40) Connecticut Sun forward Alyssa Thomas (25) and Connecticut Sun center Jonquel Jones (35) during the WNBA game between the Phoenix Mercury and the Connecticut Sun at Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, Connecticut, USA on July 12, 2019. Photo Credit: Chris Poss /

The Sun leave Washington without a trophy, but still have each other

WASHINGTON — As soon as you entered the Sun’s locker room you could feel both the love toward one another and their disappointment in how the season ended.

The normally talkative bunch was nearly silent, staring either at their laps or at their phones.

Though the team may have been disappointed in how the season ended, they were not disappointed in each other.

Alyssa Thomas and Jasmine Thomas made the rounds in the locker room embracing their teammates, long enough to show how much they meant to each other even if it was not said aloud.

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When Jasmine Thomas hugged Layshia Clarendon, Clarendon told her she was proud of her. Those were the only words audibly spoken.

Connecticut destroyed canards about the team: about being role players, about being a team who could not win in the playoffs. The Sun made it to the final game of the season but fell just short, losing 89-78.

Miller pointed out the moment, with less than seven minutes left, when the Sun led 70-67, until Natasha Cloud hit a three to tie the game. The tension shifted, the fans realized what that three meant and Washington realised that that was their moment.

That three proved to be the turning point as Connecticut could not regain the momentum.

“I think when the sting goes away, if we would tell them that we’d get to check it up with 10 minutes to go with a two-point lead in Game 5, a winner-take-all game, I think we would play that 10 minutes over and over and over again,” Miller said from the postgame podium.

“It stings right now. Proud of that locker room,” Miller added.

Despite the result, Jasmine Thomas took pride in her team and what they accomplished this season.

“I’m proud of us,” Thomas said. “I think we asserted ourselves and wanted to make ourselves known in this league, not just as individuals but as a team. You know, we have taken pride in team basketball all season. We’re a close group. We really care about each other, and sitting next to these two women up here, with how hard they work and how special they are, they’re two of the most talented people I’ve ever played with. So it hurts that we couldn’t win this championship for them, but I think we’ll always remember this team. I think going forward, we know what we’re capable of. We know we can be back here, and we’re just — it hurts right now, but I think we have a lot to be proud of.”

Shekinna Stricklen echoed these thoughts and touched on the fact that the team was doubted prior to the season, but the team was able to overcome the adversity.

“Oh, definitely proud of this team. No doubt. A lot of people doubted us, they didn’t even think we’d make it this far. We pushed it out to the last game of the season. We fought hard all season we had ups and downs. There are many times we could easily quit, but we never did. I know that a lot of people know that this team don’t quit and we going to keep, we keep fighting. So I believe we proved a lot of people wrong and most definitely proud of this team and proud of the season.”

Natisha Hiedeman had a roller coaster of a rookie year, but ended it in the Finals. “This season was a lot of fun, I play with, in my opinion, the best teammates in the world,” she said. “Overall season — You know, this was our goal and we got to where we wanted to be. So, I’m actually proud everybody for that, but my season was a lot of fun. I had a lot of people mentoring me and my teammates were just showing me the ropes and helping me the whole time along the way.”

As the final seconds of the game ticked off the clock and the reality of the loss began to sink in for Clarendon, who spent most of the season on the bench after injuring her ankle in June, began giving her teammates high fives on the bench.

“I usually always try to high five at the end of the game, win or loss, just because, you know, the focus is always so much on starters or the people who were out there on the court and it’s about 12 players and so I just always want that remembrance like the people who, whether they got in or not played great or just were cheerleaders that game that, you know, I see that and they matter too.”

Clarendon was a part of the Indiana Fever team that lost in the Finals in 2015. She believes that despite the result the team was able to change the team’s playoff reputation and that this Finals experience will help the team in future seasons.

“I think the big takeaway I see is like as a veteran who’s been here before lost in the finals before and just has experiences like that,” Clarendon said. “This team made it to the finals, we won playoff games, but no one’s even talking anymore about how we couldn’t win a playoff game and coming into the season, the last two years we lost in single elimination and now we won however many six, seven, eight or five whatever, I’m not good at math, playoff games we won and now it’s that you know CT is a household name not just like ‘Oh Connecticut, you know, has a great regular season and they get knocked out the playoffs every year.’ It’s like, ‘No,’ people are looking like we could be the Washington next year, like we get to the finals and we have our run it back redemption year and so I think it’s hard to see in the moment but like having the perspective of just having kind of been on the outside looking in this whole season. That’s the big thing I see, is like this whole experience is everything without that, like they have finals experience and they performed really well today.”

Jasmine Thomas also believes that this team will be back. “I feel like every season we have accomplished more. With those two early exits in the single-elimination, I feel like we’ve grown and we’ve matured as a team where we’re completely different now. We know how to win. I think from the beginning of next season, we’ll be determined to get right back here.”

And Miller managed to take the long view, even in the moments following a difficult loss.

“We told them in the locker room after the game, and I used this, we have an introductory song with your introductory highlight video, as you play right before you announce the starting lineups, and in that, it talks about being legendary, and I told them that they became household names in this series,” said Miller.

“Everyone is going to know their names now. And where we were considered a team without a mega-superstar, we were forced to trade a No. 1 overall draft pick weeks before the start of the season, and that locker room bonded together and said, nothing can derail us. So, they became legendary. They became household names. They were not considered megastars. Well, that locker room is filled with a bunch of megastars, and they proved that and everyone is going to know who they are for the rest of their careers.”

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