Mercury 102

(23-11, 11-6 away)

Stars 100

(20-14, 9-8 home)

    8:00 PM ET, August 30, 2007

    1 2 3 4 T
    PHX 20 30 23 29102
    SA 20 27 22 31100

    Top Performers

    Phoenix: C. Pondexter 26 Pts, 7 Reb, 6 Ast

    San Antonio: S. Young-Malcolm 24 Pts, 18 Reb, 2 Ast, 1 Blk

    Stars rally, but Pondexter's free throws save Mercury

    Associated Press

    SAN ANTONIO -- The Phoenix Mercury need just one win at home to return to the WNBA finals for the first time in nine years.

    However, after the way Game 1 ended -- almost heading into overtime -- they know the San Antonio Silver Stars won't go easily.

    "This is definitely not over," Mercury coach Paul Westhead said.

    Phoenix beat San Antonio 102-100 Thursday night on Cappie Pondexter's two free throws with 2.1 seconds left after being fouled by San Antonio's Shanna Crossley on the inbound play.

    "She got fouled. Hey, a win is a win," Phoenix's Tangela Smith said.

    San Antonio disagreed.

    "She didn't foul her," said Becky Hammon, who tied the score with a 3-pointer right before the inbound play. "Everybody in the world saw it. ... There's nothing we can do about that other than just shake our heads and let it go. That was a travesty tonight."

    Phoenix has to win one of two games at home -- Saturday in Game 2 or Sunday in Game 3, if necessary -- to move on. Phoenix won the season series with San Antonio 3-1, though the loss came at home.

    "We fought in a hostile environment against a really good team and it came down to the end," the Mercury's Diana Taurasi said.

    Pondexter finished with 26 points. Taurasi scored 20, including 4-for-7 shooting on 3s, for top-seeded Phoenix. Penny Taylor added 18 points and 14 rebounds, and Smith had 17 points.

    Hammon led the No. 2 seed Silver Stars with 32 points, including 12 points in the fourth quarter and seven 3s. Sophia Young added 24 points and 18 rebounds.

    "We got two more to play," Crossley said. "Our backs are against the wall again."

    Phoenix led from the second quarter until the last seconds of the fourth. Crossley made three free throws with 15 seconds remaining after being fouled by Taurasi on a 3-point attempt to pull San Antonio to 100-97.

    Taurasi then lost the ball out of bounds, and Hammon hit the tying 3 with 2.9 seconds left.

    "I just wanted more basketball. I'll be honest with you, everyone in the arena wanted more basketball," Silver Stars coach Dan Hughes said. "Time ran out on us. I would have loved to have seen us go into overtime."

    But Crossley was called for a foul on Pondexter, who hit the ensuing free throws with 2.1 on the clock.

    "When I was going to the line I really didn't think about nothing but me and D [Taurasi] after practice shooting free throws," Pondexter said. "I was just thinking positive the whole time."

    Crossley's 3-point attempt at the buzzer didn't fall.

    "I've been on both ends," Westhead said. "I've felt the hurt to be so close and then lose in the last couple of seconds of the game. I've been right there."

    Kelly Miller had 10 points for the Mercury. Ruth Riley had 13 for San Antonio.

    The Mercury finished the game with a 36-1 advantage on fast-break points. The Silver Stars were 13-of-31 from 3-point range. Phoenix was 10-of-18.

    The Mercury, who swept Seattle in the opening round in their first postseason series since 2000, lost to Houston in the 1998 finals.

    Hammon had 13 points in the third quarter, highlighted by an acrobatic layup followed by a 3-pointer in the last 1:03 of the period. That pulled the Silver Stars to 70-69 with 45 seconds to go after trailing by as many as six.

    "I can't believe (her)," Westhead said. "You think she's covered and then she slips between a gap. We did our best. She's a marvelous player and we did as good of a job as we could on her."

    Phoenix hit the go-ahead basket, a running jumper from Pondexter with 1:55 left in the second quarter, to take a 41-40 lead. The Mercury pushed the advantage to 50-47 at halftime.

    Riley had 11 points on 5-for-8 shooting in the opening two periods for San Antonio. Taurasi led the Mercury with 13 points, including consecutive 3s for a 47-42 lead.

    The teams were tied at 20 at the end of the first quarter -- one of 10 ties and 14 lead changes in the first half.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

      Phoenix San Antonio
    Points 102 100
    FG Made-Attempted 35-72 (.000) 35-79 (.000)
    3P Made-Attempted 10-18 (.556) 13-31 (.419)
    FT Made-Attempted 22-25 (.000) 17-22 (.000)
    Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 11-39 13-34
    Assists 22 25
    Turnovers 11 9
    Steals 5 4
    Blocks 5 6
    Fast Break Points 36 1
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 18 (0/0) 18 (0/0)