Led by 13 points and one memorable block from rookie Shavonte Zellous, the Shock closed their preseason with a 62-55 victory Saturday in the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa Basketball Classic. The Shock’s third and final preseason game was held at Traverse City West High School, where the players held a girls basketball clinic before the game and a WNBA Cares event Friday.
Shock head coach Bill Laimbeer didn’t think the gym’s cozier confines had as much to do with the game’s low score as the Silver Stars, a strong defensive team playing its first preseason contest. The teams combined to shoot 32.3 percent from the field. The Silver Stars were 3-for-26 from 3-point range; the Shock were 0-for-8.
“Every game takes on a different course. They’re a pretty good defensive team,” he said of the Silver Stars. “We just didn’t make a couple shots that we needed to.”
Zellous missed shots on Detroit’s first two possessions and then settled in, making five of her next six shots to lead the Shock with nine points at the break. She finished 6-for-16 from the floor.
“I think it’s just a matter of getting comfortable and finding a rhythm early with the gym,” she said. “We play in The Palace, a more ‘league’ gym and this is a high school gym so it was more about that. So after I got comfortable with that, it was just all out. Game on.”
After getting an earful from her coaches for failing to grab a rebound in the preseason opener at Chicago, Zellous grabbed 13 rebounds over the next two outings, including five Saturday. “We like Zellous. She made great shots,” Laimbeer said, “but her rebounding is picking up and that’s a big positive for us.”
Jan-Michael Stump/Traverse City Record-Eagle
“The block, probably,” replied a smiling Zellous when asked if she was more proud of her 13 points or the block. “I like blocking big people’s shots, me being 5-10 and she’s 6-whatever, I’m just happy.”
Mattera, who went by Katie Feenstra when she played for Detroit in 2007, had 13 points for San Antonio. All-WNBA First Team forward Sophia Young scored 14 to lead the Silver Stars. Despite their efforts, the Shock – which did not have All-Star forward Cheryl Ford and saw Plenette Pierson play only five minutes – had more rebounds (42-34), points in the paint (20-18) and second-chance points (12-9). Shock center Kara Braxton had 10 points and five rebounds, and Olayinka Sanni had a team-high six boards in less than 12 minutes.
After Zellous picked up her second personal foul in the first quarter, Pierson entered a game for the first time this preseason. Slowed by knee and shoulder injuries, she took a hard spill early in the second quarter while trying to get a defensive rebound. She left the game with an undisclosed leg injury. “I don’t know yet,” Laimbeer said of Pierson’s status. “We’ll wait and see.”
Despite playing all three games without the injured Ford (knee), Kristin Haynie (quadriceps) and Deanna Nolan (shoulder), the Shock had its fourth 2-1 preseason record in five years. The exception came last summer when Detroit lost its only preseason contest to the Silver Stars. That 74-64 defeat came in Lubbock, Tex., the first of seven meetings at five different venues. The Shock swept the 2008 WNBA Finals with two victories in San Antonio and the title-clincher in Ypsilanti, Mich. The Silver Stars won both regular-season meetings, one in San Antonio and the other at The Palace of Auburn Hills.
With the preseason slate now complete, the Shock coaching staff begins the process of finalizing its 11-player roster for the regular season. They will have to cut four players by June 6. Most cuts likely will be made in advance of that date. “I thought we learned a lot about some of our players in this preseason,” Laimbeer said.