San Antonio’s Becky Hammon may have led all scorers with 29 points but it was veteran player Vickie Johnson’s night Tuesday when the Silver Stars pulled out an 84-82 double overtime victory over the Minnesota Lynx.
The win, in front of a crowd of 4,881, was the first time the Silver Stars played a double overtime game as a San Antonio franchise. The last time was July 6, 1999, when they defeated the Detroit Shock 104-94 as the Utah Starzz.
Johnson, a fan favorite, playing her last season in the league after a 13-year career, set the tone for the Silver Stars from the start by scoring the first six points of the game. She finished with a season-high 17 points and surpassed the 4,200-point mark.
“I knew Vickie would come out and set the tone because you know this was her night,” said Lynx head coach Jennifer Gillom. “You know we started out in this league together and have so many fun memories.”
“I know the Stars are going to miss her and not only for the things she does on the court, but what she does off the court as well. She is just one of those classy individuals and that’s rare to find. It’s definitely going to be hard to fill that void.”
For all of the first quarter, the younger Lynx squad floundered, missing shots and playing lackluster defense. Gillom seemed to be practically begging her youthful players to follow her instructions but to no avail.
The Silver Stars on the other hand, followed up on Johnson’s strong start, ending the first quarter ahead 20-7.
Although the Lynx outscored San Antonio in the second quarter, at one point coming back from 16 point lead, they were not able to make up the deficit. At the break, the Silver Stars led 36-27.
Judging by the multitude of mistakes made in the first half, from ill-advised shots to stunning lapses in defense, the Lynx seemed to be headed for a definitive defeat at the hands of the home team.
“In the beginning of the game it was all about our shot selection,” said Lynx guard Candice Wiggins. “It wasn’t that we were taking bad shots, it’s just that we should have been taking higher percentage shots. We weren’t being aggressive and crashing the boards very hard.”
However, Gillom finally got into the heads of her young players and they began the second half looking like a different squad. They pounced and cut San Antonio’s lead from nine to five in just over three minutes.
San Antonio forward Sophia Young left the game early in the third with knee pain and did not return. Ruth Riley took her place. The absence of Young, the team’s leading rebounder and second highest scorer, was conspicuous as Minnesota outscored San Antonio in the last two quarters.
The Lynx had the opportunity to win the game in the last seconds of regulation. Candice Wiggins had possession of the ball with seven seconds left but could not get a shot off. She made a desperate pass to Renee Montgomery on the perimeter. Montgomery took and missed a three point shot.
In the two overtimes, there were eight lead changes. While both teams committed the same number of fouls in each overtime period, a couple of missed free throws by the Lynx in the second overtime hurt their chances of pulling out a victory. Wiggins chastised herself for not playing well enough to help her team win.
“I tried to be aggressive,” said Wiggins, “but I missed a big free throw in the second overtime and I’m probably just going to kill myself over that for a long time.”
She led the Lynx with 19 points. Rookie Renee Montgomery came off the bench to score 15 points. Teammates Nicky Anosike and Charde Houston each had double-doubles. Anosike had 18 points and 11 rebounds and Houston 10 points and 10 rebounds.
While Vickie Johnson was pleased with her team’s effort against a team described by Hammon as “loaded with talent” she stressed the importance of having a playoff mentality since the team’s victory over Detroit last Saturday.
“Every game from the Detroit game on is playoff basketball. The team that moves to the finals is playing well.”
With the win, the Silver Stars (13-17) broke their fourth place tie with the Lynx (12-18) in the Western Conference. They are now a full game ahead with four more games to play, all against Western Conference opponents.
They remain home this week and play Los Angeles Saturday at 8pm ET in the first game of a two-game series.
Minnesota plays host to the Seattle Storm, also Saturday, at 8 pm ET at the Target Center.