PHOENIX — Showtime Shoni had quite the All-Star debut.
Shoni Schimmel, a rookie who doesn’t even start for her own team, put on a record-breaking performance — scoring 29 points to help the East beat the West 125-124 on Saturday in the first WNBA All-Star Game to go to overtime.
Hitting big shot after big shot in the fourth quarter and overtime, including a behind-the-head flip over 6-foot-8 Brittney Griner, Schimmel gave the fans a great show.
Schimmel’s averaging 7.1 points in limited time for Atlanta, yet she was voted in as an All-Star starter because of a huge Native American following she has. With 17 family members — the boys wearing “Rez Ball Rules” T-shirts, cheering her on — Schimmel earned MVP honors.
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“Being Native American, it’s a huge accomplishment to go out there and be in the WNBA,” Schimmel said. “To have the fans look up to me and to be a role model not only for my siblings but also the Native American fans, the Native American people, it’s huge. I take it on my shoulders because I enjoy it.”
Tamika Catchings, an All-Star for a record-tying ninth time, made a layup with 6.9 seconds to go to give the East the lead and then knocked the ball away from Skylar Diggins on the defensive end to seal the victory. Diggins finished with 27 points and seven assists, leading a furious West rally to force overtime.
Griner, of the host Mercury, scored 17 points, including the third WNBA All-Star dunk, for the West.
Schimmel, who grew up on a reservation in the tiny northeast Oregon town of Mission, broke the All-Star Game scoring record of 23 set by Candace Parker last year.
Schimmel earned her “Showtime” nickname at Louisville. Yet it hasn’t really carried over to the Dream yet. She was drafted eighth by the team and has only started twice. She’s just the third reserve player ever to start a WNBA All-Star game, according to STATS. Any grumbling about her inclusion vanished in an electric second half and overtime, when she scored 24 points.
“It was awesome, just to be able to go out there and play my game, have fun,” Schimmel said, “feel free to go out there and play ‘rez ball.’ ”
With Diggins and Griner in their second year and Schimmel her first, it was a showcase of the league’s young talent.
“It just shows you the future of our league is so bright,” Diggins said. “…We have vets who have helped us out so much and done so much for our league. You see the passing of the torch, if you will, and tonight was a great example of that.”
Maya Moore scored 24 for the West. Tina Charles had 19 for the East.