SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS- It was a must-win for the Stars- plain and simple. San Antonio entered their lone home game under the lights of AT&T Center Saturday night against the Atlanta Dream.
But before the tip of the ball, the Stars paid tribute to one of the best to ever wear the gray and white. San Antonio's all-time leader in assist (1133), three-point shots made (498), and points per game (15.8), Becky Hammon.
"I think that it's just so humbling, the greatness," Becky explained "as you all know, San Antonians only give stuff that they feel you've earned and is merited. I just feel blessed and humbled that they chose to honor me in this way, and they feel that my name deserves to be up there with those other guys. It's a bit of a surreal moment."
As #25 was lifted into the rafters, Dan Hughes' developing squad looking on, they were reminded that greatness is a work in progress.
"When Becky came here, there was a building process for two years before the Becky Hammon's and the Ruth Riley's and all that group arrived," Coach Hughes said, "there was a building from year to year. That's what's happening here. It's a new era, but this group's headed in the right direction."
With a losing streak hanging overhead, the Stars would have to channel their inner Becky Hammon to get back on track and in the win column.
Friendly Reminders: The Stars have the worst record in the league (2-11). The Dream (8-5) are coming off a double-overtime loss at home to the New York Liberty, 90-79. San Antonio has the longest losing streak in the WNBA at four, while Atlanta has lost four of their last six. This is the second time these two teams have met, the first was in the season opener where the Dream got the win in overtime, 73-63.
Desperate to prove they are better than the numbers illustrated, the Stars opened the first quarter with a 7-0 run. San Antonio forward Dearica Hamby led the aggressive efforts, putting the first points on the board with a putback layup.
Stars leading scorer, and birthday girl, Kayla McBride, drained her first three-point shot of the night off an assist by Jayne Appel-Marinelli to put them up 7-0 early. The dominant start forced Dream Head Coach Michael Cooper to call two timeouts in the first three minutes of regulation.
Veteran forward Angel McCoughtry provided the offensive spark Cooper asked for, collecting her 10th point of the night with a driving finger roll layup off an assist by Sancho Lyttle, followed by a jumper to put Atlanta within two, 13-15. Lyttle capitalized on the momentum shift with a jumper and layup of her own to give the Dream their first lead of the night, 19-17.
San Antonio was unable to respond to Atlanta's offensive attack, going over three minutes without making a basket.
However, Stars center Astou Ndour came off the bench and produced early in the second quarter, putting up four points immediately and bringing San Antonio back within two, 27-29. McBride followed suit, hitting her second three-point shot of the night to give San Antonio the lead, 32-31.
However, the wrath of McCoughtry proved too much for the Stars in the first half. McCoughtry had 17 points alone in the first 20 minutes of play and set the rhythm for the second quarter. McCoughrty and teammate Layshia Claredon hit San Antonio with a one-two punch. McCoughtry drained a jumper, followed by Claredon's buzzer -beating driving layup to close the half with Atlanta up by five, 37-32.
The second half opened with a jumper by McBride to bring her team within three, 34-37. If anyone understood the weight of the next 20 minutes, it was McBride. A win- snaps their four -game losing streak. A loss- well that simply was not an option.
McBride connected on back- to- back jumpers, with the last one coming with a little over a minute left in the third to tie the game, 51-51. But Dream center Elizabeth Williams would have the last word, as she hit a jumper to close the quarter up by one, 57-56.
However, it would be McBride, who proved that another year older, does mean another year better. The newly 24-year-old had 28 points on the night, with 11 of those coming in a critical fourth quarter. And while McCoughtry and McBride had battled it out all night long, the Stars eventually found a way to silence McCoughtry in the remaining minutes of the game.
"They're a good team," Hughes said "(Angel) McCoughtry's a whale of a player and in a lot of ways, she's difficult to deal with. But I thought at least our overall defense in the second half gave us a chance."
Most noticeably, when McCoughtry missed a jumper with four minutes remaining. San Antonio guard Moriah Jefferson was there for the defensive rebound and found none other than McBride at the other end.
McBride released the ball from beyond the arc, the ball tracing the edge of the rim, the weight of the Star's season hanging on the result. It fell. The Stars were able to hold on to their late fourth quarter lead, and more importantly got the win against the Dream, 73-69, on what was an inspiring night for San Antonio.
"When you think of Becky you think of resilience, persistence, hard work," expressed McBride, "all of those things came up in my mind, I know it really upped our energy tonight, so it was good to get a win in front of all those fans and her."
San Antonio will look to keep to extend their win streak on Wednesday when they travel to Washington D.C to play the Mystics.