NEW YORK, July 11
-- It was the first ever WNBA 3-Point Challenge and it will be hard to top. Dawn Staley won in dramatic fashion by hitting her final two shots, including the fifth-rack money ball to defeat Katie Douglas by one point, 17-16.
Staley started off her final round slow, hitting just four of her first 10 shots, but caught fire in the middle rack, hitting 11 of her final 15 attempts for the dramatic victory. It was a sharp contrast to her first round, in which she 13 of her first 16 shots (enough to qualify for the finals right there) on her way to a 19-point round, the high for the afternoon.
Staley finished with a flourish.
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images
So, after struggling down the stretch in the first round, did she look to pace herself a bit more in the finals? Not exactly.
"I just wanted to go until my arms fell off," she said after accepting her trophy. "The more you're in a groove, you try to shoot your normal shot, but when you get tired, you gotta compensate somehow. I just wanted to get the early racks going, because I knew my shot wouldn't be the same on the later ones."
For others, they faced the opposite problem in the opening round. Douglas made just three of her first 17 shots. Katie Smith hit just four of her first 17. Diana Taurasi ... well, let's just say that it wasn't her day.
"I got out there and didn't concentrate and that's what happens," she told us.
Fortunately, she didn't let her performance get the best of her attitude.
"I make them in the games when it counts the most."
So, Staley started strong in the first round and finished strong in the finals. The one consistent thing about her performance was the middle rack. She hit nine of 10 from the top of the key, easily her best rack, which seemed pretty ironic to her.
"I don't shoot that many shots in that position," she said. "It's the easiest shot to make because it's straight on."
Staley was clearly not the favorite, but she probably liked it that way.
"I was the sleeper," she said. "I'm not known to score a whole lot of points or shoot a lot of threes."
Unfortunately, Staley won't be defending her title next her year, as she will be retiring after the 2006 season. But winning the inaugural 3-Point Shootout is a nice way to go out.