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Wings Secure Final Playoff Spot

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The Dallas Wings edged out the Las Vegas Aces 107-102 on Friday night ending their nine-game losing streak and giving interim head coach Taj McWilliams-Franklin her first career victory as a head coach. The win also secured Dallas the eighth and final seed for post-season play which begins next week.

Dallas Wings center Liz Cambage defends against Connecticut Sun forward Alyssa Thomas during the August 14 game. Photo by James Garman/Sports Page Magazine

Center Liz Cambage scored 43 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in the effort, while guard Skylar Diggins-Smith added 23 points and eight assists. Center A’ja Wilson netted 34 points and pulled down seven rebounds for the Aces.

“Vegas played really hard. They are a tough team. A lot of super stars. But our players came through with a lot of energy and a lot of effort in the fourth quarter. It was a see-saw, we could never get a leg up. We just had some great plays at the end made by great players,” said McWilliams-Franklin.

The Wings have been in a drought since July 19 when they defeated the Washington Mystics 90-81 at home.

Tensions culminated last Sunday when team president Greg Bibb and head coach Fred Williams got into a heated confrontation in Washington, D.C., after the Mystics downed the Wings 93-80. Williams was relieved of his duties and McWilliams-Franklin was elevated to interim head coach.

“It’s been a rough month. We haven’t had a win since July 19th. Every loss, the weight got heavier and heavier. It’s been emotional. It hasn’t been an easy couple of weeks but I think it has made us stronger. We just have to focus on the future. We have to focus on Seattle and whoever the first playoff game is,” said Cambage, who announced that she doesn’t plan on returning to the WNBA next season.

“It’s all I wanted for my birthday, to make my first WNBA playoffs. Thank you! It was a battle. I’m just happy we got a win. We’ve been dying for a win. We’re hungry and thirsty out there, and we finally got what we needed. We made it hard for ourselves losing nine in a row, but we went out tonight and left it all out there. I’m really proud of my team tonight,” said Cambage who turned 27 on Saturday.

Dallas Wings interim head coach Taj McWilliams-Franklin secured her first head coaching victory in her second game over the Las Vegas Aces Friday night. Photo by James Garman/Sports Page Magazine

McWilliams-Franklin was just thankful to get her first win out of the way.

“[It feels] like it did last year when we made the playoffs and got all those wins. I’m never enthralled with that. We all work together. It’s a team, so when the team wins, we win. It’s the

same for me. When I was an assistant coach last year and made the playoffs, I was just as excited,” she said.

The Wings and Aces were both on the bubble for the league’s final playoff spot for the last few weeks and it took Friday’s head-to-head matchup in order for one of the teams to secure it.

That’s not to say that the Aces didn’t have problems of their own.

The Aces were scheduled to leave Las Vegas on the morning of August 2 for a flight to Washington, D.C. to play the Mystics the next day. A line of strong thunderstorms stretched from the Florida panhandle to Philadelphia, forcing airlines to cancel or delay flights. Instead of departing at 11 a.m. as scheduled, the Aces didn’t leave Las Vegas until 1:30 a.m. August 3 when they were able to fly to Dallas, and then were delayed until noon before catching their connection to Washington, D.C. The team arrived at 3:45 p.m. with tipoff time just over three hours away. The team was delayed over 25 hours during their travel.

The league pushed back the start time by an hour to help accommodate the team but the Aces informed the league and the players association that they would not be playing that night citing “the issue of player safety” in their official statement. The WNBA ruled that the game would be a forfeit in the league standings, which turned out to be a factor in the Aces barely missing the playoff cut.

With all eight playoff teams announced, the only question that lingers is who they will play when the post-season begins on Tuesday. Since the Wings have the eighth seed, they will play on the road against the fifth seeded team, which will be either the Los Angeles Sparks or the Phoenix Mercury. Both the Sparks and Mercury are tied with 19-14 records with one final game to play. Los Angeles owns the tiebreaker having defeated the Mercury 2-1 in the season’s series.

 

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