W.N.B.A. All-Stars Beat Olympians in Gold Medal Game of Their Own
With her group of stars clustered together and bouncing up and down, WNBA team coach Lisa Leslie urged players to keep their energy up.
“We’re about to make history,” shouted Leslie, Hall of Fame member and four-time Olympic gold medalist. Then she added, “Bounce on three!” as they break up the group and return to the courtyard.
That excitement and urgency permeated the WNBA bench throughout the League All-Star Game in Las Vegas on Wednesday. Hall of Famer Leslie and Tina Thompson coached the WNBA team to a 93-85 loss to the United States in a high-energy clash that felt more like a regular season game than a at an exhibition.
Participants had a different mindset in this game than in past All-Star Games, said Brittney Griner, Phoenix Mercury center and seven-time All-Star, who led the U.S. team with 17 points. “We are here to prepare for the gold,” she said. “He’s not your type, go ahead have fun, throw some punches.” We are here to work.
After failing to host an All-Star Game in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, the WNBA has deviated from its typical format this season. This year’s game pitted the United States women’s basketball team, which will soon travel to Tokyo for the Olympics, against 12 All-Stars who were selected by the coaches from a group of 36 players who received votes from fans, players and media not on the Olympic list. Although Team USA had previously faced the All-Stars in tune-up matches prior to the Olympics, this was the first time the format was used during the All-Star Game itself, which may have resulted in additional intensity.
“I’ve never seen so much defense in an All-Star game,” WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said before presenting the game’s MVP to Dallas Wings goalie Arike Ogunbowale.
Ogunbowale, with the WNBA team making its All-Star debut, scored a high of 26 points on 10 of 18 shots, scoring five 3-pointers. “Represent just for 24,” Ogunbowale said afterwards, referring to the jersey number of the late Kobe Bryant, his favorite player. “Rest in peace Kobe. “
Ogunbowale also wears the No. 24.
She said she felt “blessed” to be an All-Star. “There are a lot of great players in this league, and for us to be chosen as All-Stars, that means we’re at the top of the league,” Ogunbowale said.
While she compiled highlight after highlight on the pitch, Ogunbowale made sure to keep people on Twitter up to date with in-game events every time she made her way to the bench.
And just as exciting as her All-Star performance is the season the third-year player is enjoying. She is among the league’s top scorers with 18.9 points per game and has scored in double digits in every game this season. In a game against the Liberty this month, Ogunbowale reached 1,500 career points faster than any other player in WNBA history except two.
Another All-Star with a great season is Connecticut forward Sun Jonquel Jones, who chose the word “grateful” after the game to describe his feelings after making his third All-Star Game.
Jones, a favorite among players this season, helped the Sun break the Eastern Conference record of 14-6. She leads the league in rebounds per game (11.1) and is the second scorer with 21 points per game. On Wednesday, she clocked an 18-point, 14-rebound double-double for the WNBA team. She also nearly won the 3-point contest in a thrilling halftime showdown that ended in a third crown for Chicago Sky’s Allie Quigley.
Jones said Wednesday’s goal is to give Team USA a game that will help players prepare for their Olympic journey, but also to show that players on the All-Star team can compete at the same level. .
Ahead of Wednesday’s game, Jones said if the WNBA team won, they would consider it their own Olympic victory – if, Jones later clarified, the US team also won gold in Tokyo.
“I’m trying to win because it’s the closest gold medal I’ll ever get,” Jones said with a laugh. “So I’m trying to go over there and get the W so I can say, ‘Yeah, grandma got the gold back in 2021.'”
Now, the United States, led by Hall of Fame member and University of South Carolina women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley, will look to Tokyo as they prepare to win their seventh consecutive Olympic gold medal later this month.
The 12-man Olympic roster includes the league’s top career scorer, Mercury goalkeeper Diana Taurasi, who did not play on Wednesday due to a lingering hip injury; career assist leader Sue Bird, Seattle Storm goaltender; and career rebounding leader Minnesota Lynx center Sylvia Fowles.
Taurasi and Bird will try to win their fifth Olympic gold medal, which no basketball player, male or female, has yet obtained.
The squad also has six first-time Olympians, including Mercury goaltender Skylar Diggins-Smith, who could have been part of the 2016 squad without a knee injury.
After the loss to the WNBA team on Wednesday, Diggins-Smith said the game taught the Olympians that they are not yet a team.
“We’ve learned that it’s never as easy as throwing 12 of the best and it clicks. It never has been, ”she said. “It was a good reminder of that. And it was also a good reminder that everyone will always want to take us down. So we have to be ready for it.
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