Shock 78, Sky 68

First Win Follows First Waive

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - Shavonte Zellous may have been drafted in April, but she was officially welcomed to the Detroit Shock this week after failing to grab a rebound in the team’s preseason opener Friday.

“Last game she got as many rebounds as a dead man. Zero,” said head coach Bill Laimbeer. “And we abused her all the last three days about it. Today she went out and got three rebounds in the first couple minutes, so it got her in the game.”

Zellous had a team-high eight rebounds - including six on the offensive glass - to go with her game-high 18 points as the Shock defeated the Sky, 78-68, at The Palace. She started in place of injured All-Star Deanna Nolan for the second straight game.

“She’s playing in Nolan’s spot, which [means] you’re going to get a lot of shots and she looks for her shot,” Laimbeer said. “She’s a great mid-range shooter and her teammates know it so they give her the ball in the right spots.”

Zellous, drafted No. 11 overall out of Pittsburgh, had three rebounds by the first timeout and scored Detroit’s first two baskets. She finished 8-for-15 from the field, a vast improvement from the 71-67 defeat at Chicago, when she shot 3-for-10 in 20 minutes.

“I would say just being more comfortable, relaxed and not pressuring myself into making plays. Just playing comfortable on the court,” Zellous said about the difference from Friday. “That first game I didn’t really get any rebounds and that was my main focus this game.”

With Katie Smith scoring seven of her 10 points in the first quarter, the Shock went on a pair of 8-0 runs in the opening quarter to build a 22-11 lead.

The Sky missed their first five shots from the floor and finished the first quarter 4-for-17. They hung around thanks to guard Kristi Toliver, the No. 3 pick in the 2009 draft. Toliver scored 12 points in the second quarter on 5-for-5 shooting, including two triples, to lead all scorers at half. Toliver finished with a team-high 17 points.

Detroit’s 39-29 halftime lead disappeared after an 8-0 Chicago run to start the third. The Sky eventually pulled within 43-42, but Olayinka Sanni responded with a strong up-and-under move and the Shock scored six unanswered points. Detroit then regained its double-digit lead in the fourth.

Sanni had 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting to help Detroit dominate scoring in the paint, 40-22. (Chicago Sky center Sylvia Fowles, who had a game-high 21 points Friday, was a healthy scratch Wednesday.) “I thought Sanni played great, a lot of energy for us,” Laimbeer said. “I thought that was a big positive today.”

After posting just seven points and three rebounds Friday’s loss, Sanni was eager to make the most of the extra minutes available with Cheryl Ford and Plenette Pierson sidelined. She also had seven rebounds. “Every time you step on the floor it’s an opportunity so I try to think positively, go out there, and if it’s my time, do things correctly and help my team,” Sanni said.

Sanni, who appeared in 31 games as a rookie including nine starts, is in a fierce competition to make the reduced, 11-player roster for the regular season. That competition that became even tougher with Laimbeer’s announcement that the team will sign former Shock center Barbara Farris Wednesday.

Farris, recently waived by Sacramento, spent the first six years of her nine-year WNBA career in Detroit. The 6-foot-3 center has appeared in 171 games with the Shock, third most in franchise history. “I expect her to compete for a spot,” Laimbeer said. “She’s a good veteran, she’s going to get in there and mix it up and give it her best shot.”

The Shock have room to sign Farris to their 15-player preseason roster after waiving guard Tenae Davis-Cain, whose promising preseason came to an abrupt end Wednesday. The third-round pick out of Florida State actually led the Shock in scoring Friday with 14 points, but she subsequently sprained her left knee at practice, ending her ability to fight for a roster spot.