The Atlanta Dream and Dallas Wings' WNBA seasons officially commenced when the two teams met on May 20 at College Park Center in Arlington, Tx. For both teams, this matchup marked the second time these franchises faced each other to open a season.
Last season, the Dream defeated the Wings 66-59 in Texas. This year, the Wings were looking to start the season off on the right foot with not only a season opening win but one at home in front of Wings faithful.
This game was highly anticipated not only for the opener rematch but the return of former Wing, Allisha Gray. Gray played for Dallas from 2017-2022 where she won Rookie of the Year and was an instant fan favorite. During this past offseason she was traded to Atlanta and then signed an extension. Everyone knew Gray would come back to the arena she called home for six seasons looking for vengeance. The Wings had other plans.
Dallas' defense knew how they wanted to guard the Dream. They forced Gray into committing two offensive fouls, Cheyenne Parker into an offensive foul and a travel to begin the game. Meanwhile, Satou Sabally came out aggressive and put Dallas on the board with two free throws. She later side-stepped for a three pointer to start a run that would extend into the second quarter.
Newcomer Natasha Howard got the ball rolling on shooting from the field with the Wings' first field goal, a three pointer. Howard is known for her athleticism and ability to shoot from the perimeter and not just stick inside the paint like a traditional post player.
Arike Ogunbowale shined in the first quarter for Dallas. She scored seven points including breaking Atlanta's Danielle Robinson's ankles for a step-back two with 0.2 seconds left on the clock.
Meanwhile, nothing went well for Gray and the Dream. Gray and her teammates kept missing shots or turning the ball over which led to a Wings' 19-0 run and a 22 point lead. Ogunbowale took over the offensive show scoring 13 points fancy dribbling and catching a football pass from Veronica Burton for an easy transition two pointer.
Ogunbowale ended the first half with 20 points with Howard and Sabally joining in double-digits with 10 and 11, respectively. Heading into the locker room, Dallas led Atlanta 47-30. In her return, Gray was 0-5 from the floor with zero points.
The second half was a tale of old habits. The Wings cooled down their shooting while the Dream fired up.
Gray started to heat up instantaneously with six points on 60% shooting. Rhyne Howard and Parker joined her with six points as well.
Atlanta's defense looked great. They held Ogunbowale to five points and Dallas to only shooting 16.7% from three point land. One person they weren't able to contain was Sabally who immensely stepped up with eight points on 75% when Teaira McCowan exited the game less than two minutes into the third quarter with an apparent knee injury.
The Dream outscored the Wings 29-22 but Dallas still maintained a steady 69-59 lead heading into the final quarter. It looked like Atlanta was ready to amount a comeback.
The fourth quarter was measly for the Wings. They scored 16 points but 10 of those came from the charity stripe. Atlanta did everything possible to stop Dallas' offensive flow that steadied them for the majority of the game. Dallas only amounted two buckets from the field courtesy of a pair of three pointers from Howard and Sabally.
The Dream held the Wings to 16.7% shooting from the field while shooting 31.6% themselves. Gray was able to get four points in Atlanta's shooting spree but it wasn't enough for her team to get the win.
In the end, Gray's vengeance against her former team was stuffed with a clutch block from Sabally and two made free throws from Veronica Burton. Dallas found a way to come through without McCowan which was not lost on Coach Trammel.
When McCowan went down, Trammel told her team, “Fight for her. Battle. It's that point that we're going to have reminded them too, that we're going to have to do that. Coming up the end of the month, so it's just more a fight for your sister.”
The Wings defeated the Dream 85-78 and gave a 5,588 person crowd a glimpse of the firepower that Dallas embodies. Sabally and Ogunbowale posted not only the top two opening scores all time in Arlington but ended the opening game slates with the top two. Sabally ended with 25 points while Ogunbowale finished with 27. Them two accounted for 84.7% of the Wings' points. Howard posted a 20 points and 10 rebound double-double in her Wings debut. The Latricia Trammel era starts with a win on their home turf and spoiled Allisha Gray's homecoming.