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Aces close WNBA Finals in 4 games, capture first professional title for Las Vegas

Las Vegas owner Mark Davis hoists the WNBA Championship trophy high above his head, celebrating the franchise's first title. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Aces

Big shots down-the-stretch led the Las Vegas Aces to a win in Game 4 of the WNBA Finals, the clincher for the team’s first title in franchise history. In addition, it’s the first major professional sports title for the City of Las Vegas.

“This has been the goal since training camp,” head coach Becky Hammon said. “Luckily, I got a group of really resilient players and you know, I said it out there but probably the biggest thing I’m proud of is just how they have come together over the court of the past five, six months to really become a team.”

The Aces outlasted the Connecticut Sun, 79-71, Sunday, Sept. 18 from the Mohegan Sun Arena. Prior to the win, Connecticut had been 4-0 in elimination games this postseason.

As for Las Vegas, the team concludes its postseason with an 8-2 final mark including a 2-0 record after losses. The clinching game came on the road where the team took three of the four along the way to its first-ever title.

Becky Hammon and A'ja Wilson embrace after claiming Las Vegas' first professional title after winning Game 4 of the WNBA Finals. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Aces

“The first thing you have to do in building a championship culture is to set a tone of accountability first and foremost,” Hammon said. “Bringing people together for a common goal that’s bigger than themselves and then you’ve got to get the buy-in factor.”

The championship also means a title for Hammon in her first year as head coach of the Aces. This season, she coached her team to the best record in the league, picking up the Coach of the Year award in the process.

It’s also the first title for Hammon as a player or a coach. By clinching, she becomes the first former WNBA player to win a title as a coach.

“It’s actually hard to put into words right now,” Hammon said. “A little surreal [...] Maybe you can call me back in like a week when it sinks in.”

Las Vegas’ first professional championship is expected to be celebrated with a parade Tuesday, Sept. 20. The parade is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. departing from Caesars Palace and culminating in a rally in front of the Bellagio Fountains.

“You have to take four shots before you pull up to the parade and drink responsibly,” forward A’ja Wilson said. “To get to the parade you have to be four shots in, it’s unacceptable to not be.”

Aces guard Riquna Williams reacts after hitting a clutch shot in Game 4 of the WNBA Finals against the Connecticut Sun. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Aces

Clutch shots from reserve guard Riquna Williams turned the tide for the Aces in the fourth quarter. She hit go-ahead three-pointers at the 2:01 and 1:39-mark to put Las Vegas up a point and then two points. The latter three put the team up for good.

“She’s somebody who didn’t shoot particularly well in Game 3,” Hammon said. “You don’t get the name ‘Bae Buckets’ for nothing. I know she got a lot in the tank and I’ve got the utmost confidence in her. She knows she’s got the ultimate green light.”

Williams added a stepback two-pointer in front of the Aces’ bench that put the team up four with 53.2 left in regulation.

Las Vegas guard Chelsea Gray races past Connecticut forward DeWanna Bonner during Game 4 of the WNBA Finals. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Aces

The game was iced on a 6-foot pullup from guard Kelsey Plum which put Las Vegas up six with less than 30 seconds left.

“I try to be very clear with what their job is – what the expectation is,” Hammon said. “Everybody is held to the same line in the sense of, nobody is shooting it over two [and] three people. Play the right way and everybody wins. And when we win, everything else takes care of itself.”

Guard Chelsea Gray was awarded Finals MVP, adding to a season where she already collected Commissioner’s Cup Game MVP after scoring 13 of her game-high 20 points in the second half. Her performance netted her a second championship ring after already winning with Los Angeles back in 2016.

“[Hammon’s] been believing in us from the beginning to play our style on both ends of the floor,” she said. “I don’t know if you guys seen it, but we were small as heck and we just had the belief.”

Gray scored 11 points in the third quarter including hitting key shots after Connecticut had regained the lead for the first time since leading, 6-4, in the first quarter.

Las Vegas used a 12-0 run in the first quarter to go up by as many as 10 points. Connecticut tied the game on a 10-0 run in the second quarter. Perhaps the biggest play of the third quarter from Gray came on the defensive end where she drew a charge on Sun center Brionna Jones with the Aces up four.

Aces forward A'ja Wilson lets out her emotions after capturing her first WNBA championship. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Aces

Wilson also had a highlight reel defensive play when she blocked Connecticut’s Courtney Williams’ floater attempt that would’ve put the Sun up a point with less than five left in the third quarter.

“My teammates put me in a situation where I can be the best that I can be,” Wilson said. “I can lean on them through thick and thin. I’m not who I am without them. I would not be who I am without them.”

Wilson put the finishing touches on a double-double in that third quarter, her sixth of this playoff run. She finished with 11 points and 14 rebounds.

After claiming her first WNBA title, Wilson has now won championships at the high school, college, international and now professional.

“It’s like a banana split sundae with chocolate drizzled with a cherry on top,” she said. “Because so many people counted us out in this situation and you can prove people wrong. And when you say that, you can hoist that trophy up. It’s truly special.”

The 2022 Las Vegas Aces pose after winning the WNBA Championship inside the Mohegan Sun Arena. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Aces

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