Women of Troy Lead West To Victory In WNBA All-Star Game

July 16, 2002

WASHINGTON (AP) -- For a league that has not been around all that long, the WNBA has some rock-solid traditions: a victory in the All-Star game for the West and an MVP trophy for Lisa Leslie (USC '94).

Leslie finished with 18 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks Monday night to lead the West to an 81-76 victory over the East.

The West has won all four All-Star games in the six seasons of the WNBA, and Leslie has been MVP in three of them. Western Conference teams also have won the last four WNBA championships.This year, with the league featuring such high-profile rookies as Sue Bird and Tamika Catchings, Leslie wanted to make a stand for her generation.

'It's funny how all of the sudden this year everybody is calling us old school ... just because a new class of young players has come in,' Leslie said. 'By no means are any of us done.'

Houston's Tina Thompson (USC '97) led all scorers with 20 points, which tied the All-Star single-game scoring mark.

Catchings, a rookie with the Indiana Fever who played with a mask protecting her broken nose, led the East with 12 points.

Catchings paid respect to the West's veterans.

'It just goes to show you -- the older players are smarter than the younger players,' she said. 'You see the older players, they always seem to get open at the right moment.'

West coach Michael Cooper was impressed with the play of his veterans -- Leslie, Thompson and Sheryl Swoopes.

'The younger players coming in -- the Sue Birds, the Lauren Jacksons -- can learn from those players,' said Cooper, who coaches Leslie with the Los Angeles Sparks. 'Because the passing of the torch ... has to be done so it's not dropped, that the caliber of play doesn't diminish.'

This was the closest of the West's victories.

'We're happy it was a competitive game because we've blown them out so many times in the past,' Leslie said. 'I think it was great for the fans.'

The East led 76-75 with 1:02 remaining, but the West took the lead for good on two free throws by Thompson that made it 77-76 with 51 seconds left. Swoopes, Thompson's teammate in Houston, added two more free throws with 19 seconds to go for a three-point lead.

The East had a chance to tie with seven seconds left, but Catchings could not handle a tough inbounds pass from Andrea Stinson. Thompson then hit two free throws for the final margin.

Leslie, the league's MVP last season, set an All-Star game record with her 14 rebounds. She had 20 points and nine rebounds in last year's game.

The East played without Washington's Chamique Holdsclaw, the league's leading scorer and rebounder who is out with a sprained ankle.

Seattle's Jackson scored 13 first-half points and finished with 15 for the West, while Swoopes had 11. Bird, a rookie with Seattle, was just 1-for-8 from the field for two points, but had seven assists.

The East missed 17 of its first 21 shots in the opening eight minutes and fell behind 20-10.But the East made it 40-40 at halftime, scoring the final two baskets on fine assists from Orlando's Shannon Johnson. On the first, she broke down Leslie off the dribble to find an open Sheri Sam. Then she found Dawn Staley on a no-look pass.

The game was played before a festive, sellout crowd of 19,487 at MCI Center. Washington has been a hotbed of WNBA support, with the Mystics leading the league in attendance three of the past four seasons despite weak teams. This year, the Mystics are winning and averaging 15,280 fans, nearly double the league average.

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