Ford is nursing a bone bruise in her left knee and was only supposed to play 10-12 minutes in Sunday's game after discussing her status with East coach Bill Laimbeer.
“Bill told me if I got the hot hand that he would continue to play me and if not he would sit me down the rest of the game,” Ford said. “I was actually looking forward to getting some rest, but it didn’t happen.”
Ford played just under 27 minutes and tallied 16 points, a game-high 13 rebounds and five assists to lead the East to a 103-99 win over the West.
“I think I’m still in shock,” Ford said about raising the MVP trophy over her head. “It’s a great award; it’s a great achievement for me and for the Detroit Shock organization. It’s a great feeling. I guess I just had the hot hand today and coach kept giving me the ball.”
Ford realized that she had the hot hand at the 5:09 mark of the second quarter.
“I think I had it going after I made a 3-pointer,” Ford said with a laugh. It was the first three-point attempt and make in her WNBA career. “I surprised myself and I know my mom was out of her seat.”
Laimbeer, who also coaches Ford with the Shock, could not decide which was more of a surprise, Ford hitting the three or dishing out five assists. What did not surprise Laimbeer was the effort that Ford put forth to lead the East to its second straight All-Star Game victory.
“Cheryl plays that way every game,” he said. “She’s always double-digit rebounding, she’s becoming a better offensive player every game, every season. Nobody really expected her to jack up a three ball and make it, but it was her day. It’s great for her because she’s such a great person.”
Laimbeer and Ford both said the East’s focus on rebounding in the second half was a key to the squad’s victory.
“The All-Star Game is all about fun, but in the second half we wanted to win and we knew we had to pick up our energy and our intensity,” Ford said. “In the first half we were getting outrebounded so we had to stop that. Even the fans knew we were getting outrebounded; I heard them all yelling out ‘Get some rebounds!’ We knew we had to get more rebounds and stop letting them get second chance shots.”
Unlike many All-Star games, this year’s contest was highly contested, which suits Ford’s competitive personality to a tee.
“We come here to play and have fun, but I like to win," she said. "I don’t care if I’m racing my little niece around the corner, I want to win. I’m a competitor and I love to win. Today we wanted to come out and defend our title and we had to come and work extra hard to do that.”
Cheryl Ford became the first player in WNBA history to be named All-Star MVP and WNBA Rookie of the Year, which she did in 2003.
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