The 2014 WNBA All-Star Game was all about Shoni Schimmel dueling with Skylar Diggins and Maya Moore down the stretch, until veteran Tamika Catchings stole the show.
With her Eastern Conference squad trailing 124-123 in overtime, Catchings grabbed a defensive rebound with 11 seconds left and went coast to coast to score the game-winning basket. The cherry on top was Catchings' strip of Diggins on the defensive end during the game's final play.
The East won 125-124.
While Catchings was the last-second hero, they don't call Schimmel "Showtime Shoni" for nothing. All she did was win the MVP and finish with a WNBA All-Star Game record 29 points to go along with eight assists (many off no-look passes), seven made three-pointers and three steals.
Oh, and it was her first ever WNBA All-Star Game.
The WNBA captured her moment:
It was only appropriate that the first ever WNBA All-Star Game to go to overtime took place in Phoenix. The Mercury have been red-hot and hold the best record in the league, at 18-3. Superstar Diana Taurasi discussed as much before the game, via Mechelle Voepel of ESPNW.com:
I'm sure if you spoke to anyone who's played in this league a long time, they'll tell you there are seasons where after a game, you're like, 'I don't know if I can do this much longer.' We don't have that weight this year. And the people here are really excited. [Saturday], it's going to be a pretty cool scene in here.
Brittney Griner, Taurasi’s teammate in Phoenix, wasted little time making an impact in front of her home crowd on both ends of the floor. The WNBA captured her impressive defensive play and pointed out that she was scoring as well:
Griner is far from the only household name in the league, and Diggins responded by going to work for the Western Conference as well in the second quarter, as the WNBA noted:
There were head-turning plays throughout the first half, but the crowd seemed to be waiting for a certain moment. They finally got it right before halftime when Griner threw down a slam dunk. The WNBA had the highlight:
Despite the efforts of Griner and Diggins, the Eastern Conference held a narrow 57-53 lead at intermission. Tina Charles led the comeback with 14 points, four rebounds and two steals off the bench.
As is the case with so many all-star games, the intensity picked up in the beginning of the second half. The Eastern Conference turned to Schimmel after intermission, and she delivered in impressive fashion.
In fact, Schimmel connected on three straight shots from behind the three-point line. Doug Feinberg of The Associated Press pointed out that Schimmel certainly earned her way to this game:
Behind Schimmel's shooting, the Eastern Conference pushed their lead to double digits at 72-62, but the Western Conference stormed back to tie it up at 78 with just more than two minutes remaining in the third quarter.
At that point, both teams had overcome double-digit deficits throughout the game.
The Western Conference led 86-85 at the end of three, which set the stage for a dramatic final 10 minutes. Voepel noted what many fans were thinking:
Logic may have implied that the defense would step up in the final quarter, but the overall talent on the floor made that much easier said than done. In fact, every player on the Western Conference roster had scored during the game after Danielle Robinson drilled her two free throws early in the fourth. The East was quick to follow when Ivory Latta scored late in the contest.
The West hit a couple of three-pointers in the early fourth, but Schimmel was at it again in transition to keep the Eastern Conference close. The WNBA had one impressive highlight in particular:
Schimmel broke a 99-99 tie with a beautiful floater in the lane with five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter and then drilled a three-pointer to stretch the lead to 106-99. It was part of what appeared to be a decisive 14-0 run for the East, and it truly was showtime for Schimmel.
After the three, Schimmel drove the lane and hit an incredible spinning layup over Griner of all people right at the rim. Take a look, courtesy of the WNBA:
It looked like the game was over when the East held a 110-101 lead with about two minutes remaining, but Moore scored five quick points, and Diggins scored six to tie the game at 112. However, it was the defense, spearheaded by Diggins' steal with less than a minute remaining, that led to the 13-2 West run that forced overtime.
Voepel captured the excitement:
Moore, Diggins and the rest of the Western Conference picked up where they left off in overtime and gradually built a seven-point lead in the extra period. Moore hit multiple impressive shots, including a fadeaway with a hand right in her face, and Diggins controlled the pace with her ball-handling.
Then Schimmel reminded fans that she was still there and drilled a deep three-pointer to cut the lead to 124-123.
After a stop, Catchings grabbed the rebound and went coast to coast for a scoop shot to give the East a 125-124 lead. The East then clamped down on Diggins' drive in the final play and finished with a dramatic All-Star Game victory.
The 249 points were the most combined points in the history of the game.
Now that the All-Star break is officially in the rear-view mirror, all eyes will be trained on the Phoenix Mercury as they look to continue their incredible play.
Phoenix has won 12 consecutive games and had multiple All-Stars showing off their stuff Saturday. The question now becomes whether they can take all that talent, led by Taurasi and Griner, and parlay it into a championship.
Four of the Mercury's final six games are on the road, so they will have to earn a potential No. 1 seed heading into the postseason.
They certainly have the talent to do so.