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Leslie paces West to victory

Posted: Tuesday, July 16, 2002

WASHINGTON -- Another win in the WNBA All-Star game for the Western Conference, another MVP trophy for Lisa Leslie.

Leslie took over in the second half Monday night, scoring 13 of her 18 points to lead the West to an 81-76 victory over the East.

The Western Conference has won all four all-star games and Leslie has left as MVP in all but one of those games.

This was the closest of the West's victories.

The West took the lead for good on two free throws by Tina Thompson, who finished with 20 points, that made it 77-76 with 51 seconds remaining. Sheryl Swoopes, her teammate with the Houston Comets, added two more free throws with 19 seconds left to make it a three-point lead.

The East had a chance to tie it with 7 seconds left, but Tamika Catchings could not handle an inbounds pass, and turned the ball over. Thompson then hit two free throws for the final margin.

Leslie, the league's MVP last season with the champion Los Angeles Sparks, finished with an All-Star game record 14 rebounds and blocked four shots. She had 20 points and nine rebounds in last year's All-Star game.

Catchings, a rookie with the Indiana Fever who played with a mask protecting her broken nose, led the East with 12 points. The East played without Washington's Chamique Holdsclaw, the league's leading scorer and rebounder who is out with a sprained ankle.

Lauren Jackson of Seattle finished with 15 points for the West, while Swoopes had 11. Seattle rookie Sue Bird was just 1-of-8 from the field for two points, but had seven assists.

Neither team led by more than four points over the final 16 minutes until the game's last free throw.

The East started poorly, missing 17 of their first 21 shots in the opening eight minutes and fell behind 20-10.

But the East worked its way back into the game, responding with nine quick points from Orlando's Nykesha Sales during an 11-5 run, and tied it at 40 at halftime, scoring the half's final two baskets on pretty 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 that tied it at 40.

In the first half for the West, Leslie and Swoopes took a back seat to Thompson and Jackson. Jackson scored 13 points in only seven minutes in the first half, while Thompson scored 12. Swoopes and Leslie shot a combined 4-for-13 in the first half.

The game was played in front of a festive soldout crowd at MCI Center that cheered hard for an Eastern Conference upset. Washington has been a hotbed of support for the WNBA, with the Mystics leading the league in attendance three of the past four seasons despite consistently fielding a loser. This year, the Mystics are winning and averaging 15,280 fans a game, nearly double the league average.



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