Dream clinch playoff berth in 88-64 winSep 12, 2009 - 2:35 AM By JONATHAN LANDRUM Jr. Associated Press Writer
ATLANTA(AP) -- When Marynell Meadors saw the Atlanta Dream practice for the first time this season, the coach knew the second-year franchise wasn't going to repeat last year's woeful effort.
"There was so much more skill and talent," she said. "We've made some changes since we selected the team at the very beginning, but I think we had to make those changes to get better. The players we have brought in have definitely helped us."
Erika DeSouza had 15 points and 15 rebounds to help the Dream clinch a playoff berth with a 88-64 win over the Connecticut Sun on Friday night.
Atlanta (18-15) also secured the second seed in the Eastern Conference standings. The Sun (15-18), who reached the postseason last season, were eliminated from contention.
Angel McCoughtry finished with a game-high 18 points and Sancho Lyttle had 16 for Atlanta, which made the second best single-season turnaround in WNBA history after finishing with a league-record 30 losses last year.
Detroit went from nine wins in 2002 to 25 - and the WNBA title - the following season.
The Dream's improved season can be attributed to the revamped roster that included veterans Chamique Holdsclaw, Michelle Snow, and Coco Miller during the offseason. They also selected Sancho Lyttle in the Houston Comets dispersal draft.
DeSouza also came back healthy to become an All-Star after she missed most of last season with a broken leg. Iziane Castro Marques improved as well this year, leading the Dream in scoring.
"They've had a great season," Sun coach Mike Thilbault said. "They just played better than us. They're obviously a much better team this season."
McCoughtry almost broke down in tears when the team celebrated on the court with fans. She said the team's mentally from the beginning was to prove doubters wrong about how the Dream was going perform this season.
"I could right now," said McCoughtry, the first overall pick in the this year's draft. "I know what they went through last year and it was a struggle. But we're moving on to bigger things."
Meadors said McCoughtry struggled at the start of the season. But the league's rookie of the month for July and August, has helped the Dream improve to 4-3 without Holdsclaw, who is recovering from knee surgery.
"She's the best rookie in the league," Meadors said. "She was erratic. She just didn't understand the pro game. Now she understands what's going on out there. ... No question about it, she is Rookie of the Year."
Sandrine Gruda led Connecticut with 16 points.
The Dream used an 8-0 run in the second quarter, capped by Arminite Price's three-point play, to build 47-27 lead. Connecticut would get no closer than 15 points, as Atlanta claimed its largest lead of the game at 31 points on Jennifer Lacy's putback in the fourth quarter.
"We really wanted to make a point and show a lot of energy on the court," said Ivory Latta, who is one of the holdovers from last year's team. "We've gone through being considered the worst to now a team that's getting some respect."
ATLANTA 88 FINAL
Sep 11 9:05 PM
ATLANTA 84 END OF 4TH QTR GOING INTO OVERTIME
Sep 11 8:46 PM
ATLANTA 84 FINAL
Sep 11 8:45 PM
ATLANTA 8 END, 1ST QTR
Sep 11 7:11 PM
- WNBA Capsules May 22
- WNBA Capsules May 21
- WNBA Capsules May 21
- Vandersloot, Pondexter help Sky cruise to 93-70 win over Sun May 14
- Atlanta cuts 41-year-old Milton-Jones, WNBA's oldest player May 12
- WNBA in Big D: Wings land in Dallas, league's 1st team there May 10
- Indiana trades Layshia Clarendon to Atlanta for draft pick May 10
- Army star Kelsey Minato gets a chance to play in WNBA May 7
- Liberty trade for All-Star guard Shoni Schimmel May 2
- Taurasi, Catchings, Bird headline US women's Olympic team Apr 27
- UConn trio look to make history at WNBA draft Apr 14
- Dream re-sign Cierra Burdick and Ariel Massengale Mar 2