Anne Donovan’s death Wednesday was felt across the WNBA.
Especially for those associated with the Connecticut Sun and Seattle Storm, who meet Friday night at Key Arena.
Donovan, who died of heart failure at age 56, coached the Storm from 2003 to 2007 and led them to their first WNBA title in 2004. She guided Connecticut from 2013 to 2015 and helped draft Sun standouts Chiney Ogwumike and Alyssa Thomas.
“Anne Donovan will always be remembered as a championship coach and a championship person,” Storm co-owner Lisa Brummel said in a statement. “Her dedication, passion and winning spirit set the tone for Storm basketball.”
The league-leading Sun trailed visiting the Washington Mystics by 28 points at halftime Wednesday when Ogwumike glanced at her phone and noticed the news that Donovan had died.
Connecticut (7-2) erased that deficit before losing to the Mystics 95-91. Courtney Williams led the Sun with 34 points as Thomas suffered a right shoulder injury late in the third quarter and didn’t return.
“I think, deep down, you never know, that second-half run could have been (because Donovan’s death) was largely in the back of our minds,” Ogwumike, who had 19 points and 13 rebounds, told The Norwich Bulletin. “You realize it’s more than a game, but at the same time, we play for so much, we play for those who believe in us.
“I know in the second half, on a couple of dead balls, I was thinking, ‘What? How’?”
The Storm (7-3) rallied from a 14-point deficit Tuesday to defeat the visiting Chicago Sky 96-85 as Breanna Stewart scored a season-high 30 points.
Stewart rebounded from a season-low 12 points in a 67-64 home loss to Atlanta in which she was plagued by foul trouble, with four of the five calls against her coming at the offensive end.
“I was just confident (and) I wanted to have a good bounce-back game,” said Stewart, who went 9 of 13 from the field Tuesday and made four 3-pointers. “Thankfully, I didn’t get an offensive foul called on me tonight and I was just being aggressive. My teammates were doing a good job of finding me.”
First-year Storm coach Dan Hughes, who has 17 years of experience in the league, said Friday’s game will be a good gauge for his team.
“This is a year where I’m still gathering data. What’s important is … I want some momentum coming out (of the current five-game homestand),” Hughes said. “It’s going to be interesting to me because we’ve got a really good Connecticut team (coming in) that’s probably playing the best in the league right now. That will be a really good measure.”