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Playoff aspirations

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On the same day that WNBA playoff tickets went on sale for the first time in San Antonio, the Silver Stars thrilled 9,516 festive fans with a tight 63-60 victory over the Houston Comets. The win closed out a six-game home stand for the Stars in which they overcame nagging injuries to their starting backcourt to post a modest 3-3 mark. Along the way the Stars clinched their first post-season birth since relocating form Utah to the Alamo City.

Prior to the Stars’ tip-off against the Comets, a playoff-like buzz, absent from the AT&T Center since the Spurs played in the NBA Finals, filled the arena. As one of the largest crowds to watch the Stars this season settled incourt, Lil’ Mama’s infectious cut “Lip Gloss,” reminded folks that this was indeed a WNBA affair. With tracks such as Eve’s “Tambourine” and Missy Elliott’s “Lose Control” on the evening’s play list, it was apparent that, at least when it comes to musical taste, the Stars have surpassed the Spurs.

During player introductions, San Antonio’s off-the-bench sparkplug, forward Shanna Crossley, stole the show as she exchanged customized on-the-court welcomes with the Stars’ starting five. Over the last few weeks, Crossley has emerged as the team’s third scoring option, behind All-Stars Becky Hammon and Sophia Young, and a solid candidate for the league’s Most Improved Player Award. She recently received the league’s weekly Peak Performer honor, and her fearless shooting stroke behind the arc will be a key factor for the Stars in the post-season.

Once the contest began, it quickly became evident that guard Helen Darling, starting in place of the ailing Vickie Johnson, is the most rugged perimeter defender on the squad. Johnson eventually saw action in the game, becoming the first player in WNBA history to amass more than 3,000 points, 1,000 rebounds, and 1,000 assists. Forward Camille Little, whose father played for the famed Harlem Globetrotters, brings the same type of energy to the paint and appears to enjoy mixing it up in the post. The two teams seemingly exchanged baskets throughout the game, and in the fourth quarter, MVP candidate Becky Hammon took command by making timely assists and hitting clutch free throws.

Conspicuously absent for the Comets was veteran Sheryl Swoopes, who has been battling inflammation in her lower back for most of the season. The native Texan is widely regarded as the greatest female basketball player of all time, has excelled in the league for more than a decade, and is the highest-profile team-sport athlete to come out as a lesbian. Her presence on the hardwood was sorely missed by the Comets, and one can only hope for a speedy recovery for the three-time Olympic Gold Medal winner.

After the game, Silver Stars Head Coach Dan Hughes commented on the supportive environment his team enjoyed at home. “Absolutely fantastic,” he said. “Don’t know if I’ve honestly seen a better crowd in my three years here than we had tonight. Numbers, involved in the game, behind the team in the right way, occasionally helping us with the officiating, they just did a lot of positive things for the Silver Stars and we so appreciate it.”

This week, the Stars will close out their regular-season home schedule with a matchup against Eastern Conference powerhouse Indiana Fever. The first round of the WNBA playoffs is scheduled to begin later this month and many San Antonio hoops fans are hoping for another celebratory river parade.

“We just have to stay focused on ourselves,” Becky Hammon said. “We don't focus on who we are playing, but improving ourselves every game, if we win or lose. I think that is what it is going to take. I don't think this team has peaked yet. We're still learning and growing every game. We need to take care of ourselves. We scout our opponents, but it's really all on us. If we play well, we'll win and if we play bad, we won't win. It's all on us.”


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