NEW YORK, July 12 (Ticker) –Katie Douglas of the Connecticut Sun helped end a dubious slump for the Eastern Conference.
Douglas scored 16 points en route to being named the game’s MVP as the East ran away with its first win in the seventh WNBA All-Star Game with a 98-82 victory over the heavily-favored West.
Similar to the league championship, the West had dominated this event, winning each of the first six games by an average of 12.5 points.
However, the Shock, the lone Eastern Conference club over the first nine seasons to win a league title in 2003, once again had a hand in breaking the West’s control. Detroit’s Katie Smith scored 14 and Cheryl Ford added 13.
Acquiring Smith in a trade from the Minnesota Lynx to bolster their squad for a playoff run last season, Detroit ended the 2005 campaign with a starting five of All-Stars.
The Shock were unable to accomplish that feat with all five players in uniform this season as both center Ruth Riley and forward Swin Cash were passed over. Those that did attend, including guard Deanna Nolan, made a huge impact.
Smith ignited a decisive 16-4 run that closed the second quarter with a jumper and had five points during the spurt. Ford, the daughter of NBA great Karl Malone, had three layups during the burst as the East took a 49-40 advantage at the half.
“Our defense played well especially in the second quarter and they weren’t expecting it,” Ford said. “We shocked them.”
“It’s great when you win,” said Connecticut Sun coach Mike Thibault, who guided the East. “The East took the game serious and it was defense and running that won this game for us tonight. Everybody on the East played unselfishly.”
Smith proved to be a pivotal player for the East breaking though, going 6-0 with the West in her previous All-Star appearances.
“If we want to win this game, you have to do the little things,” she said. “Both conferences have talent and I hope the fans enjoyed themselves.”
The momentum stayed with the East following the break as Ford had another layup and converted a three-point play off an inbounds pass to make it 56-42 with 8:30 left in the third.
“We pushed the ball and played a little defense and we wanted to win,” Smith said. “The West must have been tired these past couple of days (due to practice).”
“We lost the game in the third quarter,” said Sacramento Monarchs coach John Whisenant, who guided the West. “We went into the half thinking about making a run, but they came out on fire to start the third. We could never recover from that. Anytime you have four Connecticut players on the court it was machine.”
Douglas added a layup as the East completed a 15-2 run to pull ahead 66-46 on a pair of free throws by Nolan with 4:43 left in the third.
While the Shock fell short in full representation, the Sun did have all of their starters selected for the game, but Nykesha Sales did not play due to injury. Douglas, Lindsay Whalen and Margo Dydek all started for the East.
Whalen scored 10 points, handed out six assists and grabbed five rebounds. Dydek, the WNBA’s all-time leading shot blocker, pulled down nine rebounds and blocked four shots. Fellow teammate Taj McWilliams-Franklin came off the bench to collect 10 points and six rebounds.
Douglas, who scored 11 points in the first quarter, credited the presence of her teammates for helping her win MVP honors.
“For me, individually, it was a great feeling and having Lindsay Whalen out there was a benefit,” Douglas said. “She knew where to find me and she knew my spots. It felt like practice. It’s a great honor for the Connecticut Sun to have four out of five players. Nykesha wasn’t playing, but it was a lot of fun when we were out there.”
The East led by as many as 27 points before finishing with its second highest point total in the event.
Minnesota rookie Seimone Augustus was the lone player in double figures for the West with 16 points. The West shot just 36 percent (32-of-89) and was outrebounded by a 50-45 margin.
A three-time MVP in this event, Lisa Leslie of the Los Angeles Sparks scored nine points, along with Diana Taurasi of the Phoenix Mercury and the Seattle Storm’s Sue Bird despite some shooting struggles. The trio combined to make 10-of-29 attempts from the field.
Last year’s MVP Sheryl Swoopes of the Houston Comets also struggled with her shooting, making 2-of-8 shots to finish with six points. She did not record her first basket until a 3-pointer with 7:14 left in the fourth.
“I don’t think I was looking for my shot,” Swoopes said. “It’s an All-Star game and we are all All-Stars. Everybody wants to score. We have 10-11 players on this team that are capable of scoring.”
Along with being without Sales, the East played without two other starters as Tamika Catchings of the Indiana Fever and Becky Hammon of the New York Liberty were sidelined with injuries.