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Seattle Storm rejoice Sue Hen in closing regular-season dwelling sport; Aces play spoiler


SEATTLE — The stage was set for a memorable sport Sunday because the Seattle Storm celebrated Sue Bird‘s 19 seasons with the franchise forward of her closing regular-season dwelling sport in Seattle.

A franchise-record crowd of 18,100 packed Local weather Pledge Enviornment for the Storm’s sport towards the Las Vegas Aces. Hen was honored with an on-court tribute pregame, a video that includes highlights from Seattle’s 4 championships with Hen, and by former teammates and coaches in attendance.

Just one factor did not go as deliberate: the Aces’ 89-81 victory, which noticed them maintain off Seattle behind 29 factors from ahead A’ja Wilson and a number of key buckets within the fourth quarter from guard Chelsea Gray.

“I am not going to lie, it kinda sucks to lose my final sport right here,” Hen stated when she addressed the gang postgame. “Nevertheless it’s OK, I misplaced my first sport right here too.”

As Hen’s feedback indicated, the loss could not overcome the emotion on a day 20 years within the making.

“Exterior of the end result,” she instructed reporters, “it was an exquisite afternoon for me.”

When Hen took the court docket to work out greater than an hour earlier than the sport, she might already really feel the vitality from followers arriving early and see loads of her jerseys and T-shirts that includes her within the crowd. By the point the Storm ran out for pregame layup traces, passing a tunnel of her friends and family together with fiancé Megan Rapinoe, Hen famous that followers have been already of their seats slightly than ready for tipoff.

To Hen, the pregame ceremony adopted by an necessary sport — Seattle might have moved inside a sport of Las Vegas within the standings with a win — was paying homage to Senior Day on the College of Connecticut.

“You will have this massive ceremony and your dad and mom stroll you out and also you’re all emotional,” she recalled, “after which it is like, ‘Oh, you have to play this sport.'”

There have been nonetheless interruptions of nostalgia throughout sport motion. Hen famous seeing highlights from her rookie season 20 years in the past (together with her career-high 33 factors towards the Portland Hearth, which got here 20 years in the past Tuesday) and being reminded of the second.

For probably the most half, nonetheless, Sunday’s sport was merely a matchup of two of the WNBA’s finest groups, each battling for playoff seeding. Tina Charles, who arrived to the sport carrying Hen’s highschool jersey from their shared alma mater (Christ the King in Brooklyn, New York), saved the Storm within the sport early. By halftime, each Charles and Breanna Stewart had 14 factors and 6 rebounds apiece, although the Aces nonetheless led by one.

Neither group led by double-digits the complete sport, however Seattle might by no means go forward within the second half as Las Vegas appeared to reply each rally. Stewart, who completed with a season-high 35 factors, and Charles (19) have been the lone Storm gamers to attain double-figures. 4 of the 5 Aces’ starters scored at the very least 15 factors for his or her group.

Wilson jokingly apologized when requested by a reporter postgame about being “celebration crashers” for Hen’s tribute.

“I wasn’t making an attempt to crash Sue’s celebration,” Wilson stated. “She invited me to the celebration. I am simply making an attempt to have some enjoyable, making an attempt to lighten it up somewhat bit.

“This was an enormous night time for Sue. I am so glad that her and [Sylvia Fowles] are each getting their flowers. The issues that Sue has accomplished with this franchise are wonderful. I am honored to be her teammate on the Olympic group, particularly getting her fifth [gold medal] alongside her. This can be a massive night time for her. I am certain it will proceed to be an enormous night time for her and it is all love for certain.”

In Hen’s case, she not solely acquired metaphorical flowers within the type of deserved compliments for her profession. She was literally handed a flower by a young fan sitting courtside earlier than handing it again “to maintain.”

The memorable moments helped Hen transfer previous the outcome.

“Hear, Vegas is a extremely good group,” she stated. “I believe — myself included — we made quite a lot of errors that have been in our management. Eight factors would not, I do not suppose, actually inform the story. They simply type of prolonged it there on the finish. We get to see them once more and whereas I’d have liked to have gotten a win … perhaps it is a signal of fine issues to come back. That turned out OK in 2002.”

Pokey Chatman, who served as Seattle performing head coach with Noelle Quinn lacking the sport because of the WNBA’s well being & security protocols, acknowledged the loss was painful however vowed to get the group again to Local weather Pledge Enviornment for the playoffs.

“I believe when everybody goes dwelling and we’re packing and occurring our journey tomorrow,” Chatman stated, “it will be like, ‘Dammit, I want we might have gotten that accomplished for her.’ [But] Sue would not make you’re feeling like that.

“The benefit of it’s it is not over but and we will be again right here.”

To earn a first-round bye within the playoffs, the Storm must maintain off the Washington Mystics for a top-four seed. Washington’s dwelling loss Sunday to the Los Angeles Sparks saved Seattle one sport up within the loss column.

If the Mystics win their closing two video games, each towards the league-worst Indiana Fever, meaning the Storm must end at the very least 2-1 on a street journey that begins towards the WNBA-leading Chicago Sky and concludes with a rematch subsequent Sunday in Las Vegas.

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