The stage is set for the next round of the 2023 WNBA Playoffs as the Dallas Wings are headed to the semifinals after sweeping the Atlanta Dream last Tuesday. 4,798 were in attendance, including Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki and recording artist Kaash Paige to witness the Wings reach the semifinals for the first time since the franchise moved from Tulsa [the team was formerly known as the Tulsa Shock (2010-2015) after moving from Detroit (1998-2009)] to the Dallas-Fort Worth area in 2016.
It was also the fifth time that Dallas defeated Atlanta this season in addition to the three times these teams met in the regular season. The Wings would defeat the Dream, 101-74 which was the first 100 point playoff win for the franchise since 2007. The 27-point margin was also the largest postseason margin of victory in Wings history.
Arike Ogunbowale (20), Satou Sabally (13), Awak Kuier (13), Teaira McCowan (12), Kalani Brown (12), Crystal Dangerfield (11), and Natasha Howard (10) all helped the Wings become the first team in WNBA playoff history to have seven players score double figures in a game.
All Star guard Arike Ogunbowale would go on to praise her teammates and talk about how the team’s depth has helped them win not only in the playoffs, but the twenty-three win season which was the first twenty-plus win regular season since 2008 [Detroit Shock].
She would exclaim that, “there is no drop off when we [substitute]. There’s still five players that could probably start on another team [or] play a lot of minutes on another team. We just have depth. [It’s] definitely amazing to see [the bench] go out and execute. We wanted to get a hundred, so that was definitely exciting for us.”
Last season, when the Wings were defeated in the first round by the Connecticut Sun, Ogunbowale wasn’t fully healthy to compete. The AP All Second Team guard was healthy this time around and head coach, Latricia Trammell couldn’t have been happier. In the postgame presser, she would say how, “I went up to her and you know, I got teary-eyed because I know the journey she’s been through and how bad she wants this. I’m just happy for her. Words can’t express it.”
This is Coach Trammell’s first season in Dallas and it’s been a different energy since her arrival, but she doesn’t credit herself solely for the culture shift. “That’s the players, that’s the buy in. I heard Satou say the other day [that] they love each other, they’re connected, and if I can have a small part in that, then that is a wonderful feeling, but I enjoy being around them”, she would tell the media.
Her authenticity as a person and leading by example has also been something that has helped the Wings be successful this season. “Staying true to myself, I always tell the players, ‘do you.’ I think not changing who I am and just building relationships and connections. When I first entered this league, another coach told me, ‘Do not gain a relationship with these players, the WNBA is a business and players come and go.’ I’m so glad I didn’t take that advice, so I think just staying true to who I am.”
Before the Wings head to Las Vegas, it was announced that Satou Sabally was named the league’s Most Improved Player after being named the Associated Press’s Most Improved Player earlier in the month. In the regular season, she averaged 18.6 points per game, had fourteen double doubles, and was the first player in WNBA history to record 40 plus points in under 30 minutes.
When asked what the award means to her, Sabally replied that “it means a lot for what I stand for: International basketball and women’s basketball. It’s a great honor.” As for her main focus, it’s on the Aces, advancing in the playoffs, and helping her team win their first title since 2008.
The morale is at an all-time high in Dallas as Sabally would add that, “[the team] finally laid a good foundation for a good culture here in Dallas. I think we worked through a lot of things that had to be worked through to be able to be a championship level team… I have this quote, ‘you have to go through the mud to become a lotus’ and we kind of left the mud behind us and now, it’s time to bloom.”
The Wings and the Aces face each other in a best-of-five series with the first two games being played at Michelob ULTRA Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on Sunday, September 24th and Tuesday, September 26th. Dallas returns home to host the Aces at College Park Center on Friday, September 29th. Check your local television schedule for game times and go to wings.wnba.com for more information. Tickets are on sale now.
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