Hebard’s rookie season comes to close with WNBA playoff loss

September 16, 2020

Ruthy Hebard (right) defends Alyssa Thomas

Ruthy Hebard of Fairbanks wrapped up her remarkable rookie season in the WNBA with a playoff loss after the Chicago Sky fell to the Connecticut Sun 94-81 in a single-elimination game.

The 6-foot-4 starting forward played 18 minutes and finished with four points, two rebounds and a blocked shot.

Hebard, of West Valley High fame, took on the difficult job of having to defend All-WNBA star Alyssa Thomas, who delivered 28 points and 13 rebounds. Thomas also set a WNBA playoff record with 10 offensive rebounds.

Thomas didn’t do all of her damage against Hebard – there was plenty of blame to go around. Thomas is a strong, aggressive and experienced player who led Connecticut to the WNBA finals last year.

She gives the whole league fits, so this wasn’t on Hebard.

Chicago as a whole struggled, scoring only 11 points in the third quarter and getting only six assists from playmaker Courtney Vandersloot, who became the first player in WNBA history to average 10 assists per game in the COVID-shortened 22-game regular season.

Hebard played a huge role in helping Chicago (13-10) earn the No. 6 seed and earning a playoff appearance. The Sky asked a lot of the rookie after losing frontcourt players Diamond DeShields and Azura Stevens, forcing Hebard to step up her game at an accelerated rate.

Hebard responded by leading the WNBA with a .682 field-goal percentage on 58-of-85 shooting. She also scored a career-high 22 points in the regular-season finale, matching Kelsey Griffin’s Alaska state record set in 2013.

Hebard’s 181 rebounds for the season were the most among the five Alaskans to play in the WNBA and her 125 points as a rookie rank No. 3.

Her career .750 free-throw percentage is also No. 1 among Alaskans.

Hebard was the only player from the University of Oregon’s celebrated draft class that included No. 1 pick Sabrina Ionescu of the New York Liberty and No. 2 pick Satou Sabally of the Dallas Wings to lead her team to the WNBA playoffs.