Penicheiro Helps West Defeat East, 73-61
MEL REISNER, AP Sports Writer
PHOENIX (AP) -- In the end, the West didn't need Cynthia Cooper. Not when it still had Tina Thompson, Cooper's teammate on the three-time WNBA champion Houston Comets, and Lisa Leslie of Los Angeles. Thompson had 13 points and a record 11 rebounds to garner MVP honors, and Leslie scored a record 16 points as the Western Conference beat the East 73-61 Monday night in the league's second All-Star game.
"I was surrounded by a lot of great players," Thompson said. "They were double-teaming Lisa a little bit, so I was open. The East came in as a big underdog, but they played real hard."
"I didn't think she had a shot to win it," said West coach Van Chancellor, who coaches Thompson and Cooper at Houston. "They told me she'd won it before they announced it, and I felt like a father I was so proud."
Cooper, a two-time WNBA MVP who sprained an ankle last week, watched in street clothes.
The outcome could have been worse, like last year's 18-point win by the West in the inaugural game, but the West committed 23 turnovers.
"They dominated," the East's Chamique Holdsclaw of Washington said. "They pushed the ball up the court and set the pace."
Mwadi Mabika, Leslie's teammate with the Sparks, and Yolanda Griffith of Sacramento each scored 10 points.
Taj McWilliams of Orlando, who finished with 10 points, made two free throws with 2:47 to play to bring the East within 66-59.
Tari Phillips of New York, who also had 10 points, scored 55 seconds later to cut the deficit to five.
But Griffith, who displaced Cooper as the league MVP last year, made a layup with 1:37 to play, opening a 68-61 lead, and Brandy Reed, Griffith and Ticha Penicheiro of Sacramento each made a free throw down the stretch.
"They were big inside," Phillips said. "We had a couple of opportunities to make a dent, but a couple of rebounds did not go our way."
Reed, a Phoenix forward left off the West roster in voting by both the fans (starters) and coaches (reserves), was added as a 12th player by the league last week to avoid a fan revolt in the host city. But she fizzled on the court, shooting 1-for-11 and turning the ball over three times.
"I was really trying not to pay attention to the crowd, but I was paying too much attention, and maybe that's why some of my shots didn't fall," Reed said.
There were 11 lead changes and three ties in the first half, and the teams went 51/2 minutes in one stretch separated by no more than a point.
Then the reserves lifted the East to its high-water mark.
Orlando's Shannon Johnson and Nykesha Sales, Sue Wicks of New York and Charlotte's Andrea Stinson all scored unanswered baskets. Stinson was fouled attempting her 10-foot jumper, and the resulting three-point play with 7:06 remaining gave the East a 26-21 lead.
But the West had a backup waiting. Mabika had seven points over the final 6:46 of the half, and the West outscored the East 19-7 to take a 40-33 halftime lead.
"The West started out real slow, but we picked it up with defense," Leslie said.
The game was televised in 154 countries and 23 languages, but was hardly a classic.
The West shot 37.7 percent and the East 29.4 percent, and the East committed 15 turnovers.
A bigger factor was rebounding as the West finished with a 60-40 advantage on the boards.
"Obviously, the rebounding was the difference," East coach Richie Adubato of New York said. "Sixty to 40. They had a little size on us."