Mercury notebook: Mazzante saves best for last

By Mark Heller
East Valley Tribune
Sept. 17, 2007

Kelly Mazzante made one shot in Thursday’s Game 4 of the WNBA Finals. It was an important one. Not necessarily for that game, but for the next one.

Mazzante hadn’t been lights-out in this series. The Mercury’s first guard option off the bench was 7-for-21 entering Sunday’s deciding game.

But she made the second of two attempts on Thursday, then made four 3-pointers in Sunday’s 108-92 victory to give Phoenix the championship. She finished with 12 points, two rebounds, an assist and ran down two loose balls in 13 minutes. Mazzante was the team’s pick in the Charlotte dispersal draft last winter, another sharpshooter who could spread the floor and defenses by hovering at the 3-point line.

She hovered to near-perfection, hitting a trio of treys to help push the Phoenix lead to 15 points in the first half.

“I felt it,” she said. “I knew if I got the opportunity I was knocking them down.”

Minutes have wavered this year for Mazzante and Belinda Snell, the team’s two reserve guards, but every conversation with Mazzante since May has revolved around making the playoffs, something she, like Diana Taurasi, hadn’t done until this year.

“We knew all season it was our year,” she said. “We knew we could be the first team to win (a championship) on the road. We knew this was the team to do this.”

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Detroit forward Cheryl Ford was doubtful the past two days after suffering a severe calf injury — in addition to her injured knee — late in Game 4.

Shock coach Bill Laimbeer was “very pessimistic” the past two days that Ford could play, but she logged 12 minutes and had two points and two rebounds, and Laimbeer called her the best of Detroit’s post players in Game 5.

Kara Braxton had three points and five rebounds in 12 minutes. Katie Feenstra had 10 points and three rebounds.

It was a stark contrast to Game 1, when Braxton (19 points, 12 rebounds) and Feenstra (10 points, seven rebounds) pushed around the Mercury.

“That she played (Sunday) was spectacular,” Laimbeer said of Ford. “And quite frankly, even though she’s playing on one leg, I think she did just as well as the rest of our bigs. We didn’t have a good day inside.

“ ... She’s got the biggest heart in the world, and I give her a tremendous amount of credit. She can play on my team any day of the week.”

Though his name has been linked to being an assistant for the NBA’s Seattle SuperSonics under close friend PJ Carlesimo, Westhead said he hadn’t made up his mind about his future after Sunday’s win.

His two-year contract with the Mercury expires this offseason, and he said he plans to take “a couple days,” to make a decision about which league he plans to be part of.

Plenette Pierson appeared to get whacked in the forehead by Diana Taurasi’s backside when Taurasi went up for a rebound with five minutes left in the fourth quarter. Pierson returned, but with a bandage on her forehead.

The Mercury’s 55 points in the first half were a Finals record, as was their 73 percent shooting in the first quarter and 96.7 percent from the free throw line.

Detroit never held a lead and the game’s only tie was at 2-2.

Mercury forward Olympia Scott is the first player in league history to win a championship on two different teams.

COPYRIGHT 2007, EAST VALLEY TRIBUNE. Used with permission.