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First-Place Shock and Silver Stars to Meet Tuesday Night on ESPN2

July 30, 2007
|  Lynchburg, Va.
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Katie Feenstra can help the Detroit Shock clinch a playoff spot Tuesday night at 8 p.m. on ESPN2. (Photo by Dan Lippitt/NBAE)

Katie Feenstra can help the Detroit Shock clinch a playoff spot Tuesday night at 8 p.m. on ESPN2. (Photo by Dan Lippitt/NBAE)

With less than three weeks remaining in the 2007 WNBA regular season, both conference leaders have Liberty connections. Liberty alum Katie Feenstra's Detroit Shock pace the Eastern Conference and former Lady Flame coach Olaf Lange's San Antonio Silver Stars sit atop the Western Conference. The two teams will meet in San Antonio at 8 p.m. Tuesday, on ESPN2.

The Shock (20-6) and Silver Stars (16-8) have another thing in common as well. Both squads have lost key players to injury for the remainder of the season. San Antonio forward Erin Buescher, who was averaging 11.3 ppg and 6.1 rpg and had just been named Western Conference Player of the Week, tore the ACL in her left knee on July 11. Nine days later, Detroit forward Cheryl Ford suffered a season-ending left knee injury of her own. Ford, the All-Star Game MVP, was averaging 13.0 ppg and a WNBA-best 11.2 rpg.

The two teams have each weathered the loss of their respective standout players well. The Silver Stars have gone 4-2 since Buescher went down and the Shock are 4-1 without Ford in the lineup. Feenstra has played a significant role in her team's recent success, seeing her playing time increase since Ford's injury and starting her first four games of the year.

Feenstra is posting 10.8 ppg and 7.8 rpg in the Shock's last five contests, shooting 60.5 percent from the field in 21.0 minutes per game. She tallied three consecutive double-digit scoring efforts, including a career-high 19-point outburst in a July 24 triumph at Connecticut. For the season, the 6-8 center leads the WNBA with 13.9 rebounds per 40 minutes.

Feenstra played just three scoreless minutes in her team's first match-up with San Antonio, a 71-68 home setback on July 1. She is expected to have a much larger impact this time around, as defending WNBA Champion Detroit has the chance to become the first team to clinch a playoff berth with a win.

San Antonio, which includes both Lange and his wife, Sandy Brondello, among its assistant coaches, is also nearing its first-ever WNBA playoff berth in the team's fifth season since moving from Utah. After going just 13-21 a year ago, the Silver Stars' magic number is down 3 to clinch a spot in the postseason. San Antonio is also battling Phoenix for the West's top seed, currently owning a one-game edge, with the Mercury set to visit the AT&T Center this Thursday. The Silver Stars have been led by veteran guard Becky Hammon, who ranks third in the WNBA with 19.4 ppg and averages a league-best 5.1 apg. She is coming off a 30-point effort in Sunday's road win over Seattle.

The schedule works out in the Silver Stars' favor down the stretch, as Tuesday's contest with Detroit kicks off a six-game homestand. Interestingly, though, both San Antonio and Detroit have played better on the road this season than they have at home. The Silver Stars are 6-4 at home and 10-4 on the road, while four of the Shock's six losses have come at the Palace at Auburn Hills.