On Wednesday, the WNBA All-Star Game returned for the first time in two years with a new Olympics-influenced setup. When the final buzzer sounded, fans were certainly not disappointed.
Team WNBA defeated Team USA, 93-85, behind a 26-point game from Wings guard Arike Ogunbowale. The first-time All-Star took home game MVP honors after shooting 10-for-18 from the field to lead Team WNBA to a strong fourth-quarter finish.
The game pitted the 12 selections for Team USA that will be headed to Tokyo for the Olympics against the remaining WNBA All-Stars, and it was tightly-contested throughout. Team WNBA held a 44-43 lead at halftime, while the game was tied heading into the fourth quarter.
Mercury center Brittney Griner was the leading scorer for Team USA, finishing with 17 points on 8-for-10 shooting. Storm forward Breanna Stewart had 15 points and six rebounds, while Lynx center Sylvia Fowles scored 12 points with seven rebounds and two blocked shots. They were the only members of Team USA to score in double figures.
A key moment came midway through the fourth quarter when Ogunbowale drained a step-back three-pointer while getting fouled, pushing Team WNBA's lead to six points. Team USA would never get within four points of Team WNBA from that point on.
Ogunbowale scored nine of her 26 points in the fourth quarter.
This year's All-Star Game was the first time the WNBA has held the event in the same year as the Olympics, and was anticipated to be the most competitive in the league's 25-year history. Several players on Team WNBA have spoken out against the selection process for the Olympics rosters, adding another layer that this All-Star Game would be taken more seriously than those in previous years.
The WNBA season will resume on Aug. 15, with the playoffs beginning on Sept. 23. Team USA will have two more exhibition games this week before beginning its quest for gold in Tokyo, with the first group stage round set for July 27 against Nigeria.
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