A Courtney Williams rebound of a Kayla Thornton miss with 3.5 seconds remaining ended a last-ditch comeback by the Dallas Wings and the Atlanta Dream held on for a 101-95 win at Gateway Center Arena in College Park, Ga. on Thursday night.
Tiffany Hayes, who started the season slow with scoring totals of five and 14, recorded her second 26-point effort in a row, including eight in the fourth quarter to give the Dream leads of nine, 11, 11 and finally seven with 20.3 seconds to go. Her leadership was critical in that fourth as Atlanta improved to 3-2.
The Dream entered the final frame up seven and increased their lead to 11 before Marina Mabrey buried a 3-pointer that cut it to eight with 7:20 to play. Mabrey free throws at the 6:51 mark then cut it to six.
Atlanta pushed its lead higher after that and it wasn’t until 3:15 remaining that Dallas cut it closer. Arike Ogunbowale free throws decreased the Wings’ deficit to five.
Ogunbowale made one final heroic play, connecting on a deep triple with 14.5 seconds to go when she had nothing to lose and the Dream were forced to sweat a little bit, only up by four at that point.
But C. Williams made a free throw with 13.1 seconds left and then debuting Wings rookie and No. 2 draft pick Awak Kuier missed the second 3-point attempt of her career with 11.6 to go. Thornton’s miss came on the same possession with 5.8 remaining. One more Williams free throw resulted in the final score.
Monique Billings made a key shot with 2:55 to go that made it 97-90 in favor of Atlanta. Also, rookie Aari McDonald converted on a three-point play at the 6:42 mark that gave the Dream a nine-point lead.
Chennedy Carter backed up Hayes with 21 points and dished out four assists. C. Williams added 14 points and five assists, while Billings was good for 10 points and 11 rebounds off the bench. The Dream, known for their depth this year, scored 30 bench points overall compared to 19 for the Wings.
“The boost (Monique) gives us when she enters the game is palpable,” Dream coach Mike Petersen said. “It has palp. You can feel it. And we love that. We’re in such a nice place. We sub to our advantage, we don’t sub to cover something up. When we bring Mo in, or we bring Crystal (Bradford) in, or we bring Odyssey (Sims) in or we bring Aari in, we’re adding value to the lineup. And Mo’s such a huge part of that. I mean she leads us in plus/minus (tonight), she has a double-double.”
“Super important for us not to have that drop off,” Billings said of the bench’s performance. “We challenge each other so much. The second team, we really compete against the first team. And I feel like that kind of helps us to get game-ready and just to prepare in a great way. And our bench mob, what we say, we just say ‘contribute.’ So whenever you come in, for however long, just make sure you’re contributing in a positive way.”
Mabrey and Ogunbowale both scored over 20 points for the third game in a row and all three were Wings losses. Both scored under 20 points in Dallas’ season-opening win over the Los Angeles Sparks. Ogunbowale is third in the WNBA with 23.3 points per game and Mabrey is surprisingly sixth with 20.5.
The Wings’ three losses have all been by single digits, including a three-point overtime loss to the Seattle Storm that started the losing streak.
Meanwhile, Atlanta has won three in a row after starting 0-2.
Thornton backed up Mabrey and Ogunbowale with 17 points and eight rebounds in defeat.
The Dream outrebounded the Wings 45-32.
“They were the No. 1 rebounding team in our league coming into this game,” Petersen said. “We’d been getting murdered on the boards and then the best rebounding team in our league roles in here and we get ‘em by 13. That is just such a testimony to just our grittiness.”