Catchings hits winner, gets last word


PHOENIX -- Indiana's Tamika Catchings wasn't able to play this WNBA season until July 5 because of back problems. Still, she was voted an All-Star Game starter, and Saturday in Phoenix she was her usual self: 14 points, 13 rebounds and the game-winning layup.

What else is new? She might be 35, but Catch is still Catch. When she grabbed a rebound with 8.9 seconds left in overtime and started down the court, there was nothing the West side was going to do to stop her from getting to the rim.

Never mind that this was just an exhibition game played to entertain everyone. At that moment, Catchings was in full-on competitor mode. She scored, and the East held on for a 125-124 victory.

"I was determined," a grinning Catchings said about her mindset on the winning basket. "You come in before the game, and everybody is kind of like, 'Oh, we don't care who wins -- we just want to have fun. Whatever happens, happens.' But the closer we got to the end of fourth quarter, I know people were looking up at the scoreboard. I'm proud of our group. We pulled together and had a lot of heart. You could feel the energy from our bench."

Let's face it: Most people didn't expect the East to win this game. The teams with the two best records in the league -- Phoenix and Minnesota -- are both in the West. The game was held at Phoenix's home, the US Airways Center. Three of the top candidates for league MVP this season -- the Mercury's Diana Taurasi, Minnesota's Maya Moore and Los Angeles' Candace Parker -- are in the West.

Admittedly, it ended up being a showcase for the league's younger stars, and the veterans admirably didn't seem to mind ceding that spotlight. Taurasi, for example, played just more than 16 minutes and scored four points. Parker had eight points.

Moore, though, pretty much got into competitor mode by the end of the game, along with Catchings. Moore finished with 24 points, eight assists and five rebounds for the West. Her former UConn teammate Tina Charles had 19 points for the East.

Another standout for the East was Katie Douglas, who was on Indiana's 2012 WNBA title team with Catchings but is back with Connecticut this season. Douglas had 15 points, all on 3-pointers.

Douglas is also 35 -- she and Catchings were the "old ladies" of this All-Star Game, the only two players born in the 1970s. Both have rehabbed serious injuries over the years and gone through the grind of overseas play, yet they are still competing at All-Star level.

"I think both of our careers have been substantial, in that we've been able to have longevity," Douglas said. "Some bumps in the road along the way for both of us, of course. But we're able to still go out there and keep up with these young players with fresher legs. It's a testament to hard work and commitment."

This was Catchings' ninth All-Star appearance, yet she says there's an excitement to being part of it that really hasn't dimmed.

"Every time you have the opportunity to come to an All-Star Game, it's still like, 'Wow,'" she said. "Now, for me, it's more about getting to play with the first-timers or the second-timers and helping them improve. I look at it like, it's fun to come and be older but wiser."

And it's the most fun of all when you can have the last word, which Catchings did.