East 103, West 99

Monday, July 16th 2007, 7:37 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ When the Eastern Conference All-Stars were trailing by double digits midway through the second quarter, they didn't panic. They kept their poise, rallied for their own big lead and then held off the West for a second straight win.

Cheryl Ford had 16 points and 13 rebounds and Katie Douglas scored 18 points to give the East a 103-99 victory Sunday, its second consecutive win in the All-Star game since losing the first six.

``The biggest thing for us, we weren't rebounding but we were still in the game,'' the East's Tamika Catchings said. ``They were hitting big-time 3s, but one of the things (coach Bill Laimbeer) kept saying was, 'They're not going to keep hitting those 3s all game.' Eventually they did kind of wear out.''

The West, which shot 17-for-46 on 3-pointers to set All-Star game records for made and attempted, was 10-for-21 from beyond the arc in the first half.

After Lauren Jackson's 3 gave the West an 11-point lead, Ford began the East's comeback by hitting her first career 3.

``I guess the West rubbed off on me a little bit,'' she said. ``They were shooting 3s, so why not join them?''

The East tied it at 53 going into halftime _ with each team setting a record for first-half scoring in the All-Star game. Asjha Jones and Candice Dupree had four points each in an 8-2 run over the final 1:18 of the half, with Dupree scoring the tying basket on a layup with 16 seconds left.

``One of the things we talked about with 2 or 3 minutes left was, 'Let's just tie the game,''' Catchings said. ``Either be down just a little bit or tie the game, or even be ahead. We pulled together and played great defense, made some stops, got to the basket and were able to change the momentum.''

Deanna Nolan hit a jumper with 8:22 left in the third to give the East its first lead, 55-53, and it never trailed again.

Ford finished 5-for-9 from the floor and was 5-for-7 on free throws.

``It was a nice award for me, a nice achievement,'' she said of earning the MVP honors. ``I didn't come in here expecting to win. I just came to play and show the fans a good time. But I won and, most importantly, our team won.''

Catchings had 15 points and 11 rebounds, DeLisha Milton-Jones and Nolan scored 11 points apiece and Jones had 10 to help the East hold on after nearly squandering a 12-point lead in the final 2 minutes.

``Just like that, they came back,'' Catchings said. ``They hit some 3s, got some steals, rebounds. They were hitting down the stretch and put that little pressure on us. We won and that's all that matters. That's what we were aiming for.''

Tina Thompson scored 19 points, Jackson had 14, and Diana Taurasi and Becky Hammon 13 each for the West, which had its six-game All-Star winning streak snapped last year in New York. Cappie Pondexter added 12 points and Taj McWilliams-Franklin 11.

Dupree's layup capped a 9-2 run for the East that gave it an 89-75 lead, its biggest of the game, with 6:02 left. Thompson had a 3-pointer, and McWilliams-Franklin had a fastbreak layup to pull the West within nine 24 seconds later.

Douglas, the MVP in the East's win last year, hit two 3s in 72 seconds to push the lead to 99-87 with 2:26 left.

The West then closed with a 12-4 run. Seimone Augustus made a basket, and Thompson and Hammon hit 3s to pull within three with 47 seconds to go.

Anna DeForge made a jumper with 39 seconds to go to push the lead back to five. Hammon made one free throw 6 seconds later to close the scoring.

``Just couldn't pull it out in the end,'' Jackson said. ``It was a fun game, high scoring. If we made a few more 3s we probably would have won.''

The West shot 37 percent from the floor, attempting an All-Star-record 100 field goals. Thompson set a record with five 3s.

``We just tried to beat them from the outside simply because we thought we are a little quicker,'' Thompson said. ``They did a great job of getting the ball inside and getting really high percentage shots.''

Each team had a record 28 assists, with Taurasi totaling an individual record nine. Alana Beard had eight for the East and Catchings tied the previous mark with seven. The teams also combined for records for total first-half scoring (106 points), field goals attempted (189) and rebounds (107).

``I thought we did a great job of just pushing the ball in transition, and getting the ball to open players,'' Beard said.

This was the league's closest All-Star game, topping the West's 81-76 victory in 2002 _ also in Washington. The East's total was only the second time either squad topped 100, and trailed the West's 122 points in 2005.

After McWilliams-Franklin's layup pulled the West to 59-58 with 6:03 to go in the third, the East went on a 13-4 run to take its first double-digit lead. Pondexter hit a jumper and made a 3 in span of 19 seconds to cut the deficit in half, However, Milton-Jones had four points in the final minute of the quarter, including a buzzer-beating fadeaway to push the lead to 78-67.