Defending Champion Aces Return To WNBA Finals, Beat Wings To Complete Sweep

Sep 30, 2023, 12:25 AM


A'ja Wilson #22 of the Las Vegas Aces signs autographs for fans after the Aces defeated the Dallas Wings 91-84 in Game Two of the 2023 WNBA Playoffs semifinals at Michelob ULTRA Arena on September 26, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — A’ja Wilson and the defending WNBA champion Las Vegas Aces are headed back to the finals for the third time in four seasons after a scrappy performance.

While Wilson was denied a fourth consecutive 30-point game with plenty of defensive attention on her, the Dallas Wings still couldn’t keep the Aces from advancing for the chance to win back-to-back titles.

Wilson had 13 points and 13 rebounds, and the five-time All-Star had a tying layup while the Aces scored the game’s final 11 points to beat the Wings 64-61 on Friday night and complete a three-game semifinal sweep.

“I expected they were going to do something because she’s been on an absolute tear, and they made their adjustment,” said Becky Hammon, in her second season as coach of her former team. “Luckily for us, our defense, which is always the anchor, won us the game.”

Alysha Clark made a tiebreaking free throw with 1:45 left. Jackie Young added two more free throws with 2 seconds remaining — after the Wings had missed two potential go-ahead shots.

After averaging a WNBA postseason-best 91.8 points their first four games, the Aces had their lowest point total in a win all season. The only time they scored fewer was a 99-61 loss on Aug. 6 at New York, a potential opponent in the WNBA Finals that begin Oct. 8 in Las Vegas.

The Wings, hosting a semifinal game for the first time since the franchise moved from Tulsa to North Texas in 2016, had a 61-53 lead when Arike Ogunbowale made a running layup with 4:59 left. They didn’t score again.

Ogunbowale, who finished with a game-high 18 points, came up short on a 3-pointer as time expired after Dallas was able to call timeout and get one more shot.

“Tried to get open and get a 3, and obviously it didn’t go in. But that was a tough one, it shouldn’t have come down to that, though,” said Ogunbowale, who was then asked why. “I don’t think we made a shot in the last five minutes.”

Before the final chance by Ogunbowale, the Wings had missed nine consecutive shots. They didn’t get a second opportunity on any of them.

While Wilson’s WNBA record string of three consecutive 30-point playoff games ended, she made a free throw with 2:56 left. Clark then rebounded after the second free throw was missed. The ball went to Chelsea Gray, who made a nifty pass to Wilson for the tying layup with 2:44 left.

Clark’s free throw a minute later put the Aces ahead, and it was still a one-point margin when Gray made a drive toward the basket and when in the air decided to pass — the ball going into the stands for a turnover with a half-minute left.

Ogunbowale missed a 16-footer after a timeout and Wilson had the rebound before getting tied up for a jump ball in the free-throw circle near the Dallas basket. Teaira McCowan won the jump against Wilson and Dallas called another timeout with 9 seconds left. Natasha Howard missed a 3-pointer and Young was fouled by Ogunbowale when grabbing the rebound.

Gray finished with 15 points while Young and Kelsey Plum each had 11 for the Aces.

Howard added 14 points for the Wings, while McCowan had 10 points and 15 rebounds.

“They did an incredible, incredible job, our entire team did this series. Sometimes they fall in and everyone’s loving it, and great, and sometimes they don’t,” first-year Wings coach Latricia Trammell said. “At least we were in position. So I was really proud of this team and what they’ve accomplished. I mean, (in the) preseason we were not even supposed to make the playoffs.”

The Aces set a WNBA record with 34 wins during the regular season, with one of their six losses being against Dallas. They lost three times to New York, which has a 2-1 series lead over Connecticut — last season’s runner-up — in the other semifinal.

Wings forward Satou Sabally got her trophy before the game as the WNBA’s most improved player, but again struggled again in this series, scoring five points on 2-of-15 shooting. She finished 12 of 46 (26%) in the series after shooting at a 43.5% clip during the regular season.

Dallas had its biggest lead just before halftime when Ogunbowale made consecutive 3-pointers and assisted on another basket to make it 36-29.

Gray made a fadeaway jumper going into halftime for Vegas, then made a 21-footer on the first shot of the second half. That was part of a quick 7-0 spurt that Gray finished with a 3-pointer for a 38-36 lead.

Download the new & improved KSL Sports app from Utah’s sports leader. You can stream live radio, video and stay up to date on all of your favorite teams.


Caitlin Clark Angel Reese WNBA All-Star...

DOUG FEINBERG AP Basketball Writer

Caitlin Clark, Angel Reese Headline WNBA All-Star Team That Will Face US Olympic Squad

Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese will play on the WNBA All-Star team that plays the U.S. Olympic team led by A'ja Wilson and Breanna Stewart.

15 days ago


Doug Feinberg, AP

A’ja Wilson, Caitlin Clark Lead WNBA All-Star Fan Vote

A'ja Wilson leads Caitlin Clark by just over a thousand votes in early fan voting for the WNBA All-Star Game, the league announced Friday.

27 days ago

Las Vegas Aces first WNBA team sellout every home game in a season...


Las Vegas Aces Become First WNBA Team To Sell Out Every Home Game In A Season

The Las Vegas Aces became the first WNBA team to sell out every home game in a season when the final tickets were claimed against Chicago.

27 days ago


Kyle Ireland

Team USA’s Breanna Stewart Excited To Experience Paris 2024 With Family

WNBA star and Team USA's Breanna Stewart said she's excited to experience the Paris 2024 Summer Games with her family.

1 month ago


Michelle Bodkin

Utah Women’s Basketball Has Traveled To See Alissa Pili, Minnesota Lynx

Count Utah women's basketball as another team that takes the "family" motto to heart with several members traveling to watch Alissa Pili.

1 month ago


Michelle Bodkin

Former Utah Women’s Basketball Star Alissa Pili Becomes Nike N7 Ambassador

Former Utah women's basketball star and current Minnesota Lynx rookie Alissa Pili just signed a deal to be a Nike N7 Ambassador last week.

1 month ago

Sponsored Articles


KSL Sports

Utah Hockey Newsletter: Sign Up Now

Want to get the latest info on Utah's newest sports franchise? Sign up for the Utah Hockey newsletter!


KSL Sports

KSL Sports Newsletter: Sign Up Now

Sign up today for the KSL Sports newsletter. Get the latest Utah sports news delivered to your inbox.


KSL Sports

Jazz Notes Newsletter: Sign Up Now

Sign up today for the Jazz Notes newsletter. Get insider analysis, game recaps and opportunities to win tickets!

3 kids wearing real salt lake jerseys smiling...

Real Salt Lake

6 Reasons You Need to Experience a RSL Matchday

RSL Games are a great way to spend time with your family with fun activities, good food, and traditions you can only experience at the field.

High angle view of the beautiful Rose Bowl Stadium...

KSL Digital Sales

How to Prepare for the 2023 Rose Bowl

Everything you need to know to plan your 2023 Rose Bowl trip in Pasadena, California. This year, the Utes will face Penn State.


KSL Digital Sales

Notable Moments From The Utah Jazz Season… So Far

At the beginning of the season, the Utah Jazz were second to last. Now they rank in the top 10 teams in the Western Conference.

Defending Champion Aces Return To WNBA Finals, Beat Wings To Complete Sweep