Las Vegas 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 pro title, in a 78-71 road win over the Connecticut Sun in Game 4.
Gray went 9 of 13 from the floor, and was named Finals MVP after averaging 18.3 points in the series.
Vegas finished on an 8-0 run. As the buzzer sounded, league MVP A’ja Wilson, who played every minute of the game, grabbed the ball and stomped the floor before being mobbed by her teammates.
“We champs! We champs! We champs!” Wilson screamed at teammates as they pulled on their championship hats and T-shirts before the trophy ceremony.
Riquna Williams had 17 points for Vegas, Kelsey Plum added 16 points, Jackie Young had 13 and Wilson added 11 points to go with her 14 rebounds.
Wilson hopes this is just the beginning for the franchise.
“You see it. You see it,”
“This is what we’re building. This is what we’re doing. This is it. I’m so happy right now.”Wilson said in the on-court celebration.
Courtney Williams had 17 points to lead Connecticut and Alyssa Thomas had her second straight triple-double with 11 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds. Jonquel Jones added 13 points and DeWanna Bonner had 12.
“When you come up short it certainly, really hurts,”
“But that means that there was something that mattered, and something special among that group of players.”Sun coach Curt Miller said.
For Aces coach Becky Hammon, who didn’t get a title in her standout WNBA career, the ring completed a decades-long quest. She left an assistant coach position with Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs to take over in Las Vegas. The move paid off.
“They’re unbelievable on the court, but they’re unbelievable humans, first and foremost,”
“They care about each other. They invest in each other. It’s been an absolute honor to be their coach. I saw excellence and I wanted to be a part of it.”Hammon said.
Hammon also paid tribute to former Aces coach Bill Laimbeer, who was on the floor 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, wasn’t with his football team Sunday. He was in Connecticut to get a trophy. He hoisted it, then turned it over to gleeful players who did the same.
“Las Vegas, we are world champions,”Davis said.
The Aces led by two points at the half and four points after three quarters. They held a six-point lead in the fourth when Plum was called for a flagrant foul after running into Bonner while the Sun guard was attempting a 3-pointer and sending her to the floor 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 free throw by Courtney Williams and took a 71-70 lead on two fouls shots from Brionna Jones.
But Las Vegas had the answers.
Riquna Williams 3-pointer put the Aces back on top and Gray’s step-back jumper extended the lead back to 75-71 with under a minute left. A’ja Wilson then stole a pass and Plum hit a short jump shot to secure the win.