ALL-STAR SKILLS CHALLENGE
Fowles’ Miss Opens the Door for Houston, Pondexter and Young in Skills Challenge
By Mark Bodenrader, WNBA.com

UNCASVILLE, CT, July 25, 2009 -- All 6-6 Chicago center Sylvia Fowles had to do was lay the ball in and her team would have won the inaugural All-Star Skills Challenge prior to the 2009 WNBA All-Star Game. However, Fowles chose to try to give the fans at Mohegan Sun Arena an early thrill Saturday and dunk the ball to wrap up what would have been a dramatic victory. Fowles came up short on the attempt though and the team’s time of 34.6 seconds did not qualify.

“I couldn’t get my legs under me,” said Fowles. “I thought we were going to have more time to warm up.”

As a result the title instead went to West All-Stars Charde Houston of Minnesota, Sophia Young of San Antonio and Cappie Pondexter of Phoenix, who were the first of four teams of three to take part and posted a time of 34.8 seconds.

“We were the first team and the first team sets the tone,” said Houston. “We were focused.”

The new event, which was an off-shoot of the Dribble, Dish and Swish Challenge used in past All-Star weekends in which four players faced off against each other, tested the players' skills in shooting, passing and dribbling.

The contest began with one player attempting a lay-up, then passing off to another player at the foul line for three tries at a make. That same player then had to weave through a series of cones while dribbling toward the other end of the court where she would pass off to the final teammate at the three-point line for three shots at a trey. That player then grabbed another ball, dribbled through another row of cones before passing back to half court to the player who started things off for a drive and lay-up.

The team of Houston, Young and Pondexter started off on fire, sinking their lay-up and free throw with ease. The team’s first and only miss came when Pondexter misfired on a three-pointer, but she followed up with a hit and after the final lay-in by Young that team had posted a time that was going to be tough to beat.

Granted, Houston, Young and Pondexter are all multi-talented, but for three players who play for three separate teams their chemistry was uncanny.

“It was a team effort,” said Houston. “One person cannot do it all.”

East All-Stars Jia Perkins of Chicago, Tamika Catchings of Indiana and Sancho Lyttle of Atlanta were up next and also had just one slip-up – a missed free throw by Perkins. However, their time of 35.4 seconds came up just short of the previous group’s.

Following them were West All-Stars Swin Cash of Seattle, Nicole Powell of Sacramento and Nicky Anosike of Minnesota. The trio had a tougher go of it than the prior teams, ending up with a time of 43.0 seconds. First, Cash missed on one of her free throws, then Nicole Powell rimmed a three-point try. Sensing the team had no shot to overtake the best score, Anosike injected a bit of comic relief by running with the ball without dribbling from half court for the final lay-up.

That left it to the final team of East All-Stars Alana Beard of Washington, Asjha Jones and Fowles to best the time of Houston, Young and Pondexter. And they rolled through the course, hitting on their first three shot attempts and moving at pace that put them in position to win should Fowles complete the final leg. Of course, that didn’t happen, as Fowles, who has let it be known that she hopes to dunk in All-Star Game, couldn’t get up enough to throw one down, and, unfortunately, her attempt to entertain the crowd backfired. Beard followed Fowles’ dunk miss with a quick lay-in, but the bucket didn’t count.

“I didn’t get one in this, but I’m definitely going to get one in the game,” said Fowles.

Charde Houston takes part in the winning run during the All-Star Skills Challenge.
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