East claims WNBA All-Star Game in OT
PHOENIX — Showtime Shoni had quite the All-Star debut.
Shoni Schimmel, a rookie who doesn’t even start for her own team, put on a record-breaking performance — scoring 29 points to help the East beat the West 125-124 on Saturday in the first WNBA All-Star game to go to overtime.
Hitting big shot after big shot in the fourth quarter and overtime, including a behind-the-head flip over 6-foot-8 Brittney Griner, Schimmel gave the fans a great show.
Schimmel’s only averaging 7.1 points in limited time for Atlanta, yet she was voted in as an All-Star starter because of a huge Native American following she has. With 17 family members — the boys wearing "Rez Ball Rules" t-shirts, cheering her on — Schimmel earned MVP honors.
"Being Native American, it’s a huge accomplishment to go out there and be in the WNBA," Schimmel said. "To have the fans look up to me and to a role model not only for my siblings but also the Native American fans, the Native American people. It’s huge. I take on my shoulders because I enjoy it."
Tamika Catchings, an All-Star for a record-tying ninth time, made a layup with 6.9 seconds to go to give the East the lead and then knocked the ball away from Skylar Diggins on the defensive end to seal the victory. Diggins finished with 27 points and seven assists, leading a furious West rally to force overtime.
Brittney Griner, of the host Mercury, scored 17 points, including the third WNBA All-Star dunk, for the West.
Schimmel, who grew up on a reservation in the tiny northeast Oregon town of Mission broke the All-Star Game scoring record of 23 set by Candace Parker last year.
Schimmel earned her "Showtime" nickname at Louisville. Yet it hasn’t really carried over to the Dream yet. She was drafted eighth by the team and has only started twice. She’s just the third reserve player ever to start a WNBA All-Star game, according to STATS. Any grumbling about her inclusion vanished in an electric second half and overtime, when she scored 24 points.
"It was awesome, just to be able to go out there and play my game, have fun," Schimmel said, "feel free to go out there and play `rez ball.’"
With Diggins and Griner in their second year and Schimmel her first, it was a showcase of the league’s young talent.
"It just shows you the future of our league is so bright," Diggins said. "…We have vets who have helped us out so much and done so much for our league. You see the passing of the torch, if you will, and tonight was a great example of that."
Maya Moore scored 24 for the West. Tina Charles had 19, Chiney Ogwumike 15, Catchings 14 and Angel McCoughtry 13 for the East.
Diggins, the WNBA’s No. 2 scorer, had six of the West’s last eight points in regulation, capped by a layup off a turnover with 26.3 seconds to go to tie it at 112-112.
Griner opened the overtime with a layup and Moore’s 3-pointer put the West up 124-117 with 1:59 to play.
But Katie Douglas sank a 3 to cut it to 124-120 with 1:15 to go, then Schimmel made her seventh 3 of the afternoon with 41.9 seconds left to cut the West lead to 124-123.
Catchings’ driving layup and Diggins’ turnover finally put an end to the frenetic contest.
Lisa Leslie, who was in attendance at the game, was the first to dunk in a WNBA All-Star Game nine years ago. Sylvia Fowles did it in the 2009 contest. But nobody in league history has dunked as often as Griner.
The 6-foot-8 center has four dunks in her two WNBA seasons. The rest of the league has six in its entire history. Griner has, two this season, the most recent Tuesday night.
After wowing the crowd with a series of dunks in warmups, she got one that counted with 2:15 left in the first half, taking a pass from Parker and launching from the baseline to go above the rim.
"Definitely wanted the win, didn’t get it, but I think everybody in the stands had a good time, enjoyed the game," Griner said. "That’s what it is all about, putting a show for our fans."
NOTES: WNBA President Laurel Richie said before the game that six teams finished in the black last season, up from four the previous year. She also said the Golden State Warriors have strong interest in an expansion team. … The Ogwumike sisters, Chine of the East and Nneka for the West, were the first siblings to play in the same WNBA All-Star Game. … Schimmel leads the WNBA in jerseys sold.