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Thompson leads Storm past Tulsa, 63-59

May 17, 2013

If this truly is going to be grind-it-out kind of year for the Seattle Storm, they have someone on the court who knows better than anyone how to do that.

Tina Thompson hit a putback of her own miss with 38.8 seconds left Friday night, the last of her 19 points, then Temeka Johnson, Camille Little and Shekinna Stricklen combined to hit five free throws in the final 18 seconds as the Storm beat Tulsa in their WNBA exhibition finale, 63-59.

Thompson’s shot put Seattle on top, 58-57, the sixth and final lead change of the fourth quarter. Johnson’s two free throws at 18.3 seconds made it 60-57, then Riquna Williams cut it 60-59 on a runner with 14.0 seconds to go.

Little’s two free throws made it 62-59 at 13 seconds. Williams missed a 3-point try from the right corner, Stricklen rebounded, was fouled with 3.8 seconds left, and hit the second of her two free throws to clinch it.

Thompson, starting her 17th season in the league – the only original WNBA player still active – collected 11 of her 19 points during the final quarter.

“I think the tone was set very early in training camp of how we’re just going to have to grind games out and be a defensive-minded team,” Thompson said. “The great thing is, everybody on the team has embraced that. So when you have the same mindset, it’s just a matter of getting it done and working out the cohesiveness of it.

“I feel like that’s where we are.”

The Storm (2-0) swept through their exhibition schedule for the first time in franchise history. Next up: the regular-season opener on Sunday, May 26, against the Sparks in Los Angeles at 5:30 p.m. The home opener is the following Sunday, June 2, against top rookie Brittney Griner and the Phoenix Mercury at 6 p.m. in the Key.

From that point forward, the two preseason victories won’t matter. But how the Storm put them into the books did matter to coach Brian Agler.

“We showed a lot of signs of what we’re looking for in regard to being resilient and competitive and making plays when we needed to at both ends, offensively and defensively,” he said. “From that standpoint, it’s a good win to build on. Tonight’s game doesn’t count, and we weren’t concerned about the result other than if it got close, we were going to try to win.”

Little finished with 12 points for Seattle. Stricklen came off the bench for nine points and a team-high 10 rebounds.

Williams finished with 19 points off the bench for Tulsa (0-2), including 12 during the fourth quarter. Glory Johnson had a double-double of 13 points and 18 boards. Heralded rookie Skylar Diggins was limited to just four points on 2-of-10 shooting, not getting onto the board until midway through the third quarter.

The Storm came out frigid, missing their first 11 shots, while the Shock hit their first four in racing to an 8-0 lead. Seattle’s first points came on a pair of Thompson free throws with 7:00 left in the first quarter, but Tulsa ran off another six in a row to make it 14-2.

Rookie forward Tianna Hawkins gave Seattle a spark when she checked in for her home debut with 4 ˝ minutes left in the opening quarter. Hawkins hit the Storm’s first field goal, laying in a well-placed pass from Noelle Quinn at the 3:43 mark, then converted the and-one.

That started a 15-3 run to finish out the quarter, capped by a coast-to-coast lay-in by Temeka Johnson with 7.4 seconds left to forge the game’s first tie at 17-17. After the 0-for-11 start, the Storm hit five of their last seven to close out the quarter. Tulsa went the opposite way, missing 11 of its final 12.

Seattle went in front for the first time at 19-17 on an eight-footer by Stricklen at the outset of the second quarter. Tulsa tied at 19, but the Storm ran off five straight to go in front and stayed there the rest of the half, finishing with a 28-25 lead at the break.

“We were just being more aggressive as a team,” Stricklen said. “Our defense picked up, we were getting stops and were able to run and get lay-ups. It was really good to get transition points. We started going, got in the flow, and everyone helped us out.”

Veteran guard Tanisha Wright saw her first action since the end of last season. She didn’t play during the WNBA offseason because of a knee injury, and didn’t play in last Sunday’s 67-66 road victory against the Los Angeles Sparks. She got the start on Friday and had three points, three rebounds, and two steals in 18 minutes.

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