WNBA Finals: Aces’ power trio leads Las Vegas to 2-0 series lead over Connecticut Sun

Chelsea Gray #12 high fives Kelsey Plum #10 of the Las Vegas Aces during Game 2 of the 2022 WNBA Finals.
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The Las Vegas Aces extended their advantage over the Connecticut Sun on Tuesday evening, winning Game 2 of their best-of-five WNBA Finals series in decisive fashion, 85-71. The Aces were powered by 2022 WNBA MVP A’ja Wilson, who had a game-high 26 points and 10 rebounds, and punctuated by 20-point performances from Chelsea Gray (21 points, eight assists) and Kelsey Plum (20 points, seven assists).

The Sun were paced by Courtney Williams with 18 points and five assists. Also in double figures were Jonquel Jones (16 points, 11 rebounds) and Alyssa Thomas (13 points), while Brionna Jones came off the bench to score 12.

Connecticut will host Game 3 on Thursday at 9 p.m. ET (ESPN).


Las Vegas Aces vs. Connecticut Sun: Post-game quotes

Aces’ leading scorer A’ja Wilson on her second straight double-double performance: “I’m just getting to my spots. My teammates are putting me in a situation where I’m comfortable and I’m just getting to my spots and taking what the defense gives me.

Aces’ Chelsea Gray on her performance Tuesday and what it will take to win the title on the road: “It’s gonna take every bit of every body and you know, you can see the stats, you can see the points and what it says, but it’s the toughness, the little things that’s going to get it done. … We’ve been a good road team this year, all year, so we might as well just go ahead and try to win on the road.”

Aces’ Kelsey Plum on her turnaround from six points in Game 1 to 20 in Game 2: “A’ja cussed me out before the game. That’s all I needed. About time I joined the party. They’ve been carrying us all week, so it was good to hit some shots, but we got one more.”

Aces’ head coach Becky Hammon on whether she feels like she’s proving naysayers wrong in first year as head coach: “It’s about putting these ladies in a position to win a championship. That’s been my focus. That’s why I took this job. I felt they had the talent to do it. And I felt that I can build the relationships and build a culture the right way for us to put ourselves in a position to be able to win a championship. Like I said before, we haven’t won anything yet. All’s we did is take care of home court. We did what we were supposed to do, but I’m used to people not picking me. I don’t know if you’re aware. I just do me.”

Connecticut head coach Curt Miller on the Game 2 loss: “We just, you know, felt like we were playing catch-up all night because we couldn’t string together consecutive stops. And again, we’re trying to find disruption. We’re trying to keep this high-powered offense out of rhythm. And tonight, we really struggled to do that.”

Sun’s Jonquel Jones on mindset going home for Game 3: “We’re just taking it one game at a time now. That’s all we can do. We’re gonna go back home, like you said, we’re gonna have our fans behind us, who’ve been with us the entire season, and we’re gonna use that to propel us to win. That’s all we can do.”


Connecticut Sun vs. Las Vegas Aces, Game 2: Fourth-quarter live updates

10:00 Q4: Ahead of the fourth quarter, Kelsey Plum (20 points on 7-of-11 shooting) tells ESPN about her turnaround from her six-point performance in Game 1: “It’s new day. Shooters shoot. There’s really nothing else to say. I have confidence in myself. I have confidence in God. My team has confidence in me, my coach. It’s just a matter of time.”

6:18 Q4: Sun head coach Curt Miller calls a timeout, as nearly midway through the final quarter, Connecticut has added just two points on a pair Jonquel Jones free throws. Aces lead 74-56.

4:28 Q4: Chelsea Gray pushes the Aces’ lead to 20 points after making a 27-foot three point jumper, 80-60.

1:59 Q4: Aces starters head to the bench as Sun take 20-second TO, Aces lead 82-62.

0:00 Q4: Las Vegas wins handily, 85-71, and extends their best-of-five series lead to 2-0 and stand just one win away from a franchise-first WNBA title.


Connecticut Sun vs. Las Vegas Aces, Game 2: Third-quarter live updates

9:34: Q3: Chelsea Gray opens the scoring in the second half with a jumper from 19 feet, putting the Aces back up by 10 at 47-37 and satisfying the record-breaking, sold-out crowd (video below) at Las Vegas’ Michelob Ultra Arena.

7:11 Q3: A 7-0 run that included two buckets from Alyssa Thomas and a three-pointer from Jonquel Jones makes it a three-point game. Aces lead 49-46.

6:03 Q3: Chelsea Gray limps off the court after making a driving layup to put the Aces back out front by seven (video below). She’s got 10 points and seven assists. Gray exits at the timeout and heads back to the Aces’ locker room.

3:38 Q3: A’ja Wilson sinks a bucket from 18 feet to give Vegas another 10-point lead at 58-48. She now has 20 points, as does Kelsey Plum. Gray comes back out from the locker room (back in the game at 3:00 mark).

0:00 Q3: The Aces hold a 14-point lead for the second time during the game, heading into the fourth quarter at 68-54. Riquna Williams nailed 24-foot three-point jumper at the 22.3 mark and A’ja Wilson (22 points) added two from the line with 0.5 left.


Connecticut Sun vs. Las Vegas Aces, Game 2: Second-quarter live updates

6:59 Q2: Sun go on a 6-0 run of their own, edging closer the Aces at 23-29.

5:55 Q2: Kelsey Plum follows up a 3-pointer from 25 feet with a layup to give the Aces another double-digit lead at 34-23.

2:48 Q3: A’ja Wilson extends Vegas’ lead to 13 points (41-28) as she hits 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting.

19.3 Q3: The Aces call a timeout after the Sun go on a 9-2 run, cutting the deficit to six points. Aces lead 43-37.

0:00 Q3: A’ja Wilson gets a bucket with 1.6 left as the Aces take an eight-point lead into halftime (45-37). Wilson leads all scorers with 18 points, with Kelsey Plum adding 13. Jonquel Jones leads the Sun scorers at the half with 11; Courtney Williams had 10.


Connecticut Sun vs. Las Vegas Aces, Game 2: First-quarter live updates

8:26 Q1: The Sun and Aces pick up where they left off Tuesday, trading baskets as the two teams tie at 6-6 early. A’ja Wilson is first on the board again (video below).

3:45 Q1: Well more than halfway through the first quarter, the tug-of-war continues … A’ja Wilson leads all scorers with eight points, while Courtney Williams has put up six for the Sun. Tied at 14 as Las Vegas takes a timeout.

1:55 Q1: Aces go on a 7-0 run, started and capped by Chelsea Gray (video below), sandwiched around a 3-pointer from Jackie Young. Aces lead 21-14 as Sun call a timeout.

0:00 Q1: Las Vegas ends the quarter on a 9-1 run, finishing the first quarter with a 23-15 lead.


WNBA Finals Game 2: What’s at Stake

  • Now in their fifth year as the Las Vegas Aces, the franchise is looking to capture its first WNBA title under first-year head coach and 2022 WNBA Coach of the Year Becky Hammon. This marks the second time the Aces have appeared in the Finals, after losing in a three-game sweep to the Seattle Storm in 2020. Las Vegas looks to extend its lead to 2-0 before heading to Connecticut for Game 3 on Thursday.
  • The Connecticut Sun aim to get a win on the road Tuesday and even the series as they look to win the franchise’s first ever WNBA title. The Sun have previously qualified for the WNBA Finals three times (most recently in 2019).

Refresher: Wilson’s double-double leads Aces to 67-64 win over Sun in Game 1

The top-seeded Las Vegas Aces jumped out to a 1-0 series lead on Sunday with a narrow 67-64 victory of the third-seeded Connecticut Sun in their best-of-five 2022 WNBA Finals.

Newly minted 2022 WNBA MVP A’ja Wilson led Las Vegas with 24 points and 11 rebounds, while Chelsea Gray added 21 points and Jackie Young chipped in 11 as the franchise won its first WNBA Finals game in franchise history.

The Sun were led by Alyssa Thomas with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Jonquel Jones added 15 points, and Brionna Jones came off the bench to score 12.


What they’re saying ahead of Game 2 between Connecticut Sun and Las Vegas Aces:

Aces coach Becky Hammon on Game 1 win: “Obviously had a rough night offensively. Give credit to (the Sun’s) defense and give credit to us missing. I thought it was a little bit of both. But that’s a tough team. This is where they like the score to be, and we’ll go back, look at the film and make some adjustments. Happy that we won. It’s better than losing, but there’s a lot of things that we can do better.”

Hammon on A’ja Wilson: “Her leadership, who she is, she got (the) ‘it’ factor. She got ‘it’ factor. She gets it. She understands leadership. Because I don’t really know her as a person. I was watching like everybody else was watching from afar. She’s got beast skills. She’s a beast human. She’s a good one. I’ll go to battle with her any day.”

Sun coach Curt Miller on Game 1 loss: “Unfortunately the big stat line difference tonight in a lot of areas was their ability to get to the foul line and play through contact, and we struggled to get to the foul line and any kind of offensive rhythm there in the second half, and that’s a credit to their defense. But you know, really pleased with holding that high-powered offense down and got the style of play we wanted. So we are encouraged but I’m disappointed that it didn’t equate to a win.”

A’ja Wilson regarding getting the Aces’ first win under their belts: It was a game we needed. It was a game we needed not necessarily because, oh, it’s our first win. It’s because it’s something that this is huge for us. These are statement games in a way and when you are playing a good team like Conn, you have to really lock in at all costs. It was good to have a game underneath our belt. The crowd was great and now we have to get ready for Game 2.

Alyssa Thomas on her takeaways from Game 1: “After this game, we have to have a lot of confidence. I mean, this is a three-point game and we had a chance to tie. I think we are very confident and we know that all you need is one (win), and then there’s two games at our place. So, there’s some things we can clean up — of course we can make more shots — but overall we played a hard game.”


Las Vegas Aces vs. Connecticut Sun: Leading scorers ahead of WNBA Finals’ Game 2

Aces leading scorers (postseason points average):

  • Chelsea Gray, 23.6
  • A’ja Wilson, 21.0
  • Kelsey Plum, 17.0
  • Jackie Young, 12.1
  • Riquna Williams, 6.3

Sun leading scorers (postseason points average):

  • Jonquel Jones, 14.4
  • DeWanna Bonner, 12.7
  • Alyssa Thomas, 11.9
  • Brionna Jones, 10.2
  • Natisha Hiedeman, 8.7

2022 WNBA Finals Schedule: Las Vegas Aces vs. Connecticut Sun

Note: Games marked with an asterisk (*) are if necessary

  • Game 1: Sunday, Sept. 11 — Connecticut at Las Vegas
    • Las Vegas won, 67-64 (3 p.m. ET on ABC)
  • Game 2: Tuesday, Sept. 13 — Connecticut at Las Vegas 
    • 9 p.m. ET on ESPN
  • Game 3: Thursday, Sept. 15 — Las Vegas at Connecticut 
    • 9 p.m. ET on ESPN
  • Game 4*: Sunday, Sept. 18 — Las Vegas at Connecticut 
    • 4 p.m. ET on ESPN
  • Game 5*: Tuesday, Sept. 20 — Connecticut at Las Vegas
    • 9 p.m. ET on ESPN

MORE WNBA: 2022 WNBA Finals — Las Vegas vs. Connecticut schedule, how to watch, results

Diana Flores looks to break down gender barriers with turn as AFC offensive coordinator in 2023 Pro Bowl

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Diana Flores admits she was surprised when she became a viral sensation last spring, courtesy of a 15-second slow-motion clip showcasing her evasive maneuvers and fancy footwork while leaving at least three defenders in the dirt during Mexico’s 2022 national collegiate flag football championship.

“I never expected someone to record that moment,” said Mexico City native Flores, who led her team – the Monterrey Tech Borregos – to their third consecutive national title as a senior last May. “I was just having fun. I was just playing the game I love and then days later to see that it was viral on the internet — it was crazy. But at the same time, it was exciting because I remember when I was younger, I didn’t have a lot of flag football role models to follow. So now, for me to be a role model for many boys and girls that play my sport is something that really makes me happy and proud and also motivates me to keep getting better.”

Flores, who led the Mexico Women’s National Flag Football Team to a gold medal at the 2022 World Games, will have the chance to promote her sport on one of the world’s biggest stages this weekend when she serves as the AFC offensive coordinator for the NFL’s 2023 Pro Bowl Games, featuring the first-ever AFC vs. NFC Flag football games on Sunday in Las Vegas.

Organized in partnership with RCX Sports, the NFL’s flag football operating partner, and the International Federation of American Football (IFAF), Sunday’s Pro Bowl event will feature three 7-on-7 AFC vs. NFC flag games. Each game will be 20 minutes in length (two halves) and played on a 50-yard field with 10-yard end zones. Flores will be joined by Peyton Manning as the AFC head coach and Ray Lewis as defensive coordinator. On the NFC side, U.S. Women’s National Flag Football team quarterback Vanita Krouch will serve as offensive coordinator, with Eli Manning as NFC head coach and DeMarcus Ware as defensive coordinator.

“I think that this has been one of the best things in my life,” she recently told On Her Turf about her Pro Bowl appointment. “It is like a dream. I mean, I grew up watching football, watching the NFL, playing flag football. And now to be able to be part of all of this — it is bigger than my biggest dreams.”

Flores’ football dreams began as when she was just 8 years old. Her father — who played quarterback for the perennial football powerhouse Monterrey Tech program — took her to a practice and she fell in love with the sport. But as the time there were no teams for girls her age, so she played with girls twice her age and used it to her advantage, focusing on her own abilities and sharpening her skills. By age 14 she was playing NFL Flag in Mexico, where she was the only girl in the league, and at 15 she started playing NFL Flag in the U.S, where she finally played on an all-girls team.

ALSO FROM ON HER TURF: U.S. flag football star Vanita Krouch ‘living the dream’ ahead of NFL Pro Bowl debut as NFC coordinator

“I remember when I started playing, I used to receive a lot of like comments, directly and indirectly from other people, like, ‘Why do you play that sport? That’s not a girls’ sport, that sport is for boys, you’re get injured, you’re going to get hurt, don’t play with boys, that’s too rude.’ And the list keeps going. But my mom and dad were so supportive. They always encouraged me not to listen to anybody, to just follow my passion.

“And I think thanks to them, I’ve always had this mentality that gender doesn’t matter. It just matters how passionate you are about your dreams, how hard you work for what you want to achieve. And that you will always demonstrate what you’re made for, depending on the hard work you do. So, I’ve lived through that [negativity], I have experienced that. And I think that it has been one of my biggest blessings to be able to experience — for myself — what sport can do and how gender barriers get broken when you follow your dreams and you connect with other people through your passion.”

At just 16 years old, Flores made Mexico’s national team, playing in the first of four Flag Football World Championships – so far. Last summer at the World Games in Birmingham, Alabama, the 24-year-old Flores led Mexico to a 6-0 record, which included two wins over the U.S. women, who took silver. In the gold medal game against the United States, she completed 20 of 28 pass attempts for 210 yards and four touchdowns in Mexico’s 39-6 victory. She finished the tournament with 23 touchdown passes, the third-most among women’s teams, and she was the only starting quarterback to beat USA’s star QB, Krouch, who is 19-1 in international tournament play.

All that international experience so early in her career has given Flores a wise-beyond-her-years approach to playing flag football, a sport where she was frequently the only female player on the field and often the only Latin American as well.

“When I first came to the U.S., it was a little shocking to notice that I was probably the only Latin American girl playing,” she recalls. “But I think that it was easy for me because I got all the support from my coaches and my teammates. And since a young age, I think that I started to realize that sometimes what you do is for something bigger than yourself. That’s why you have to always give your best, in any situation. Even at that young age, I understood that I was representing more than myself on the field, I was representing Latin American people, Latin American girls in a sport that [many people thought] was meant to be for boys.”

RELATED: NFL still pushing for Olympic flag football with a chance ahead

One door Flores hopes to help open is the one leading to the Olympics. Flag football is on the short list being considered for inclusion in Los Angeles in 2028 Los Angeles. As an ambassador for flag football for the NFL and the International Federation of American Football (IFAF), she’s participated in talks with the International Olympic Committee, and just last month she was joined by First Lady Dr. Jill Biden in Mexico City where they joined forced to promote women’s empowerment and inclusion.

“I think for me, that experience is one of my top three,” she said of spending time with Biden. “I call them gifts from life, something that you didn’t expect it to happen, and somehow, one day, you’re right there in front of the First Lady. I admire her for what she does for boys and girls, for empowering woman and giving opportunities for everybody to achieve their dreams. So it was truly an honor to meet her, and also to be able to keep impacting my sport, not only on the field, but [off] the field, and have the opportunity keep inspiring others and keep impacting the world.”

As for what she hopes fans at the Pro Bowl and viewers at home take away from Sunday’s flag football showcase, Flores hopes they’ll see the characteristics that made her fall in love with flag in the first place: creativity, speed, agility, teamwork, passion and a lot of heart.

“I hope to show to all little girls and women that dreams come true, that nothing is impossible, to keep inspiring and opening opportunities and doors for women in sports, especially in the world of the NFL and football and flag football,” she says. “We’re going to make history, and I am so proud and happy for that. I’m really hoping that it is just the first step, not only for me, but for all the women that are coming after me.”

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Flag football star Vanita Krouch ‘living the dream’ ahead of NFL Pro Bowl debut as NFC coordinator

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When Vanita Krouch got the news that she was named NFC offensive coordinator for the 2023 Pro Bowl Games, featuring the first-ever AFC vs. NFC Flag football games on Sunday, the U.S. Women’s National Flag Football team quarterback admits her jaw nearly hit the ground.

And then she realized something even more profound.

“For the longest time, thinking about the moment, everything, you’re like, ‘Oh, my gosh, this is a dream come true. Is this really happening?’” said the 42-year-old Krouch, known as the “Tom Brady of flag football” with a 19-1 record as USA’s starting quarterback in international tournaments since 2018.

“But then I started thinking to myself: You know what? None of us grew up thinking of this as a dream to obtain. So really, it’s kind of reversed where I’m living a dream. I get to be a pioneer in this growth of flag football for all and inclusion for all, youth and adults, [women and men]. It’s such an inclusive sport, and I get to be a part of this growth and still actively play. It’s exciting. I’m literally living the dream. I’m very much like, ‘Guys, don’t pinch me. Let me keep sleeping.’”

Organized in partnership with RCX Sports, the NFL’s flag football operating partner, and the International Federation of American Football (IFAF), Sunday’s Pro Bowl event will feature three 7-on-7 AFC vs. NFC flag games. Each game will be 20 minutes in length (two halves) and played on a 50-yard field with 10-yard end zones. Krouch will be joined by Eli Manning as NFC head coach and DeMarcus Ware as NFC defensive coordinator. On the AFC side, Mexico Women’s National Flag Football quarterback Diana Flores will serve as offensive coordinator, with Peyton Manning as head coach and Ray Lewis as defensive coordinator.

But Krouch’s journey to the Pro Bowl stage began under the unlikeliest of circumstances and was inspired by her own family odyssey, which began in Cambodia during the horrific regime of the Khmer Rouge in the late 1970s. Krouch’s mother, Phonnary Krouch, fled the country with three young sons in tow, running by night and hiding by day to escape, finding safety initially at a refugee camp in the Philippines. That’s where she welcomed Vanita, in September 1980, and two months later the family made its way to the United States. Krouch’s father exited the picture upon their arrival in America, leaving Phonnary to raise four children alone.

“In a nutshell, my mom is an amazing woman,” said Krouch, who first found sports via an elementary school flyer advertising youth soccer in Carrollton, Texas. “On the journey, she had a lot of trials, tribulations, … and after our dad left us, it was just mom and four kids in this little one-bedroom apartment. So, it was a challenge. I’m just so amazed by her strength and will to never give up.”

She also credits her mom for standing up to then-stereotypical notions that Asian girls should not play sports.

“I’m just thankful, honestly, that my mom allowed me to break the Asian culture barriers of a woman playing sports because that’s not easy,” she said. “She faced a lot of backlash from the community. But she said, ‘Hey, my child’s making good grades. She’s healthy, she’s good. She’s staying off the streets. I don’t see a problem.’ And she just let me do it. I was just lucky to have a mom that let me spread my wings.”

Krouch also had a few mentors along the way. Her elementary school PE teacher, Toni Neibes, stepped in to pay for those initial soccer fees and continued her support as Krouch transitioned to basketball in the fourth grade. She fell in love with the sport and excelled at it as well, eventually earning a full scholarship to play college basketball at Southern Methodist University. She wears the No. 4 to this day in honor of Niebes, who wore the same number as a young athlete. She also credits her fourth-grade teacher, Judy Ward, as having a lasting impact after the teacher made a habit out of showing up for her youth basketball games.

She pays tribute to them both through her clothing line, 4Ward Apparel, which features ever-changing collections emblazoned with relevant slogans encouraging female empowerment, inclusion and her personal mantra of “paying it forward” – something she does with the line itself. Each month, Krouch donates a portion of the sales to individuals, families or organizations in need.

After graduating SMU in 2003, Krouch continued to play basketball in semi-pro and adult leagues, but she was still searching for something to satisfy her competitive drive. She and a former college teammate stumbled on flag football during a Google search for local Dallas-area activities, and the rest – as they say – is history.

“It was like I drank the Kool Aid and I never looked back,” she says of her start in flag in 2006. “It’s just like every game, every play is a new challenge, and it’s addictive for a competitor, so I just fell in love with flag. I actually think I’m way better at flag than I was at basketball.”

She moved into the quarterback position through some sly maneuvering by current USA Women’s Flag Football head coach Chris Lankford. They were playing together in a local tournament when he “tricked” her into the QB position, despite Krouch knowing “zero football language.”

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“One day I showed up for a tournament and I asked, ‘All right, guys, who’s our quarterback?’ And he says, ‘We’re looking at her,’” she remembers. They kept the plays simple, and her team made it to the playoffs that season. Krouch has been a QB ever since.

Krouch joined the national team in 2016 and was inducted into the National Flag and Touch Football Hall Fame that same year. Last year at the 2022 World Games in Birmingham, Alabama, a 41-year-old Krouch set a new mark as the oldest Flag football player, man or woman, in the games, and she ranked second among women with 25 touchdown passes at the tournament where USA won silver.

She aims to bring that expertise to the field at the Pro Bowl games, where she’s looking forward to seeing NFL players take on the flag football style type of plays. “Flag is a very finesse, quick game, a lot of footwork, and these guys can’t grab or hold, no downfield contact or downfield block or anything off the line,” she explains. “So it’s going to be exciting just to see skill for skill, footwork for footwork, defense to offense, and to see flag football language with those type of elite athletes.”

As for the biggest challenge, Krouch believes it will be crafting a concise playbook and language that puts everyone on the same page. “A challenge for me is getting a coach’s mindset,” she adds, “I have to actually come up with plays ahead of time and I don’t usually have premeditated plays in my head. I just read it so for me to tell Kirk Cousins or Geno Smith [what to do], it will be different, you know?”

But beyond the Pro Bowl, Krouch is excited that flag is being considered for inclusion as an exhibition sport in the 2028 Summer Olympics. While she’s keeping a hopeful eye on that development, she’s also working to shape the next generation of potential athletes as a physical education teacher at La Villita Elementary in Irving, Texas.

RELATED: NFL still pushing for Olympic flag football with a chance ahead

“It’s an honor to be a role model – for other youth flag football players, for my students, both boys and girls,” says Krouch. “Then at my campus and in my community, it’s amazing to be able to break the barrier of like, ‘Asian women can’t do this.’ And then to be at my age, still doing this, I feel very lucky and blessed. …I think I still got some years in me.”

As for what she hopes viewers and fans walk away with after watching the Pro Bowl flag games this weekend, Krouch feels confident folks will walk away enlightened by the show.

“I just hope that they have fun with it,” says Krouch. “And for those who don’t know flag to be like, ‘Wow, that’s really amazing. Maybe that’s something I really can get my son or daughter into at a young age.’ So I just hope that they see that the sport is real – it’s not just something we play at recess. It’s a real thing now. I think they’ll see that the world loves it, the world can play it and is playing it.”

Be sure to check back with On Her Turf later this week when we catch up with AFC coordinator and Mexico Women’s National Flag Football Team quarterback Diana Flores.  

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