Final

Mercury 96

(11-15, 5-9 away)

Stars 98

(12-14, 5-8 home)

    8:00 PM ET, July 28, 2006

    1 2 3 4 T
    PHX 19 30 35 1296
    SA 27 25 33 1398

    Top Performers

    Phoenix: C. Pondexter 27 Pts, 5 Reb

    San Antonio: V. Johnson 25 Pts, 6 Reb, 4 Ast, 1 Stl

    Johnson pushes Silver Stars past Mercury, ahead in race

    SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- Vickie Johnson has played in more WNBA games than anyone. On Friday night, she played her biggest game of the season.

    Johnson scored a season-high 25 points, including the go-ahead layup past two defenders, and the San Antonio Silver Stars beat the Phoenix Mercury 98-96 on Friday night.

    "That's why she's here -- to get the ball in her hands and let her make decisions," Silver Stars coach Dan Hughes said.

    Johnson is one of seven players still in the league since the inaugural season in 1997, playing in 308 games. She came to San Antonio from New York this year as a free agent.

    She scored the winning basket after driving past Diana Taurasi near the free-throw line and scooting by Kristen Rasmussen underneath.

    "They didn't play a whole lot of defense and we didn't play a whole lot of defense," Johnson said. "We came out aggressive and ran with them."

    Phoenix, which has lost three straight, got 27 points from rookie Cappie Pondexter, 25 from Taurasi and 22 off the bench from Penny Taylor.

    The Mercury (11-15) missed a chance to tie when Taylor rebounded Rasmussen's miss, but she missed the follow near the basket at the buzzer.

    Pondexter scored 16 points in the second quarter, and Taurasi broke the franchise single-season record for points that was set in 1998 when Jennifer Gillom scored 624.

    San Antonio (12-14) had double-doubles from rookie Sophia Young and Katie Feenstra. Young scored 17 points and had 10 rebounds, while Feenstra had 14 points and 13 boards.

    The Silver Stars pulled a game ahead of Phoenix for fifth in the Western Conference. Seattle is fourth, which is the final playoff spot.

    Phoenix led by five points with 2:37 remaining in the game after Taylor's short jumper. But the Silver Stars chipped away and tied it when rookie Shanna Zolman hit a 3-pointer with 45 seconds left.

    "We played hard down to the wire, but we need to learn how to win games like these that are close," Taurasi said. "It's not brain surgery."

    Zolman scored 14 points on 4-of-8 3-point shooting.

    Phoenix trailed by nine points with 4:50 remaining in the third quarter. But the Mercury took the lead two minutes later following a pair of 3-pointers by Taurasi and another by Rasmussen to go along with a basket by Pondexter.

    Pondexter's big second quarter helped Phoenix erase a 10-point first-quarter deficit. San Antonio built a 25-10 lead in the opening period after going 4-of-6 from 3-point range during a stretch of 5:41.

    Pondexter hit six straight shots to start the second quarter, including a 3-pointer that made it 33-all 2:59 into the period.

    Pondexter was 7-of-9 in the period, making both 3-pointers she tried. She scored 20 points during the first half, which fell short of the 29 Taurasi had in a half July 14 against Los Angeles.

    But the Silver Stars managed a 52-49 halftime lead. San Antonio shot 8-of-17 from 3-point territory before halftime. Zolman was 3-for-4.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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    Team Stat Comparison

      Phoenix San Antonio
    Points 96 98
    FG Made-Attempted 37-80 (.000) 37-75 (.000)
    3P Made-Attempted 11-25 (.440) 9-25 (.360)
    FT Made-Attempted 11-15 (.000) 15-20 (.000)
    Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 11-31 12-35
    Assists 20 21
    Turnovers 14 15
    Steals 6 4
    Blocks 3 2
    Fast Break Points 22 5
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 21 (0/0) 17 (0/0)