West 73, East 61

Tuesday, July 18th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

PHOENIX (AP) — With Cynthia Cooper vowing to retire and turn Houston's Magnificent Threesome into a duo, Tina Thompson is in the spotlight for good.

Her performance in the second WNBA All-Star Game showed she belongs.

Thompson had 13 points and a record 11 rebounds and garnered MVP honors — beating out 1999 MVP Lisa Leslie despite the Los Angeles center's record 16 points — as the Western Conference beat the East 73-61 Monday night.

``I didn't think she had a shot to win it,'' said West coach Van Chancellor. ``They told me she'd won it before they announced it, and I felt like a father I was so proud.''

Chancellor, who has coached the Comets to three WNBA crowns in the league's three-year existence, can relate to Thompson's predicament.

Cooper was the league's MVP the first two years, and she and Sheryl Swoopes, the West's top vote-getter both years and leading scorer this year, have made the all-WNBA first team three times.

Thompson, a power forward, scores a little less than the others and wound up as a second-team all-NBA pick last season after two years on the first team with her teammates.

But with Cooper, who sprained an ankle last week, watching in street clothes, Thompson overshadowed everyone in this game.

``I didn't look at it like that,'' Thompson said. ``Everyone has a role on our team in Houston, and that's what you need to have a solid team. You know what it is you need to do. I don't try to go outside my role, and I tried to do the same things tonight to help my team.''

The West outrebounded the East 60-40, and East coach Richie Adubato of New York said: ``Obviously, the rebounding was the difference. Sixty to 40. They had a little size on us.''

Yolanda Griffith of Sacramento had 10 points and 10 rebounds to join Thompson as the only All-Stars to record a double-double. Natalie Williams also had 10 rebounds for the West.

Orlando's Taj McWilliams and Tari Phillips of New York had 10 points and nine rebounds each, but had little support on the boards.

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.''

McWilliams made two free throws with 2:47 to play to bring the East within 66-59, and Phillips 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. Then she fizzled, 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 5 1/2 minutes in one stretch separated by no more than a point.

Then the bench lifted the East.

Orlando's Shannon Johnson and Nykesha Sales, Sue Wicks of New York and Charlotte's Andrea Stinson all scored. Stinson was fouled, and the resulting three-point play with 7:06 remaining gave the East a 26-21 lead.

But the West had a backup waiting.

Mwadi Mabika of the Los Angeles Sparks scored seven points over the final 6:46 of the half as the West outscored the East 19-7 to take a 40-33 halftime lead.

``This game was a lot more competitive,'' Thompson said. ``There was a lot more defense played.''

It showed in the box score — the West shot 37.7 percent and the East 29.4 percent.